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Resolute family will see Habitat home rise from Texas tornado rubble

By Bill Sanders

Volunteers raise a wall for Olga Hernandez’ house.

Olga Hernandez and her children should be moving into their Habitat for Humanity home in Granbury, Texas, by the end of July, about two months later than originally planned.

Hernandez’s home in the Rancho Brazos subdivision was destroyed by an EF4 tornado in May, just a few days before she and her family were scheduled to move in. When the tornado passed, nothing was left of their completed home but a concrete slab.

Hernandez’s heartbreaking story garnered regional and national news coverage, but she insisted that she and her children were among the lucky ones. They were not at the house when the storm hit, she said, and other people lost much more than her family did.

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Of the 57 Habitat for Humanity homes affected by the tornadoes, 22 were deemed a total loss.

Olga Sanchez and her children (from left) Arian, April, Jasmin and José were out at the work site Wednesday for the first day of rebuilding their home, which was destroyed by a tornado days before they were to move in.

Carol Davidson, executive director of Hood County Habitat, and her team vowed to rebuild Hernandez’s home as soon as possible. The homeowner-to-be was badly shaken by the storm, Davidson said, and initially questioned whether she wanted to remain in the area. But after a few weeks, Hernandez was ready to rebuild.

“She is thrilled again, and has overcome most of her apprehension,” Davidson said.

Neighboring Trinity Habitat for Humanity, in Fort Worth, will do the majority of the construction on the Hernandez family’s house, in partnership with Hood County Habitat, an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff.

Hernandez’s new home will be built with a “reinforced room,” Davidson said.

“We’re not sure anything could have withstood the tornadoes from May,” Davidson said. “But this added reinforcement has made her feel more secure about the house.”

For now, Hood County Habitat is adding reinforced rooms to every new house it builds in Rancho Brazos. That model might not be sustainable in the long run, Davidson said. But in the short term, it’s adding a priceless sense of security to people whose lives were turned upside down by the tornadoes.

The Habitat homeowners whose houses were damaged or destroyed by the May tornadoes were all insured, Davidson said. Their homes are being repaired or rebuilt with insurance money, and by local contractors.

Habitat Hood County is looking to serve non-Habitat homeowners who lost their houses and are struggling to rebuild. Also, construction will begin soon on houses for two families who had already been approved for new homes before the May tornadoes.