Students recount their disaster experiences

An untold number of Richland students found themselves caught up in one of the worst tornadoes to ever strike North Texas.

For Arfia Kazi, a student worker at the Office of Student Life (OSL), the tornado was a frightening experience.

“This was my first tornado and it was horrible and scary,” she said. “I was in Red Lobster and I was working at that time. The power went out and all of us were told to go into the walk-in freezer. When we got out, I saw that the entire roof of our building was destroyed, like there was no roof, and it was raining inside the restaurant. Then when I looked outside I saw that the cars that were parked outside the restaurant were destroyed by the roof falling on them.” Kazi said. 

Kazi said one of the car windshields was totally shattered due to a tree falling on top of a car. Two nearby restaurants, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse near the intersection of Hwy. 635 and Greenville Avenue, sustained major damage. 

“It was all just so horrible,” she said. “I live near Greenville [Avenue] and I had a power outage for four days, three nights straight. My water supply was also cut off for two days.” 

Kazi said she had to purchase prepared food because she did not have access to a kitchen. 

“The most important thing was charging my phone. I had to charge it in my car and I charged it whenever I could on campus,” she said. 

Since the storm hit on a Sunday night, many people were at home and were able to quickly seek shelter. 

“In terms of the tornado, me and my family followed the protocol and we were in this little cupboard under our stairs,” said Kimberly Le, vice president of the Student Government Association. “My whole family and the dog were all, thankfully, safe.” 

Le said she didn’t think they had sustained damage until they looked outside. They were surprised to see the majority of their backyard fence had been knocked down and a gazebo had also sustained damage. 

“I didn’t experience a power outage, but I have a couple of friends who live a little bit north from me in Plano and a little south of us in South Garland and I heard that their power was out,” Le said. 

Toni Baker, a junior at Richland Collegiate High School (RCHS), faced two tornadoes that Sunday night. 

“The first one was right in front of my apartment complex and it ripped out the power lines, so we didn’t have power for like two days. I had to go sleep over at my stepmom’s house, but people who didn’t have anywhere else to go had to sleep there in the dark,” Baker said. “The second was at my stepmom’s house. I basically saw the tornado picking up water and picking up debris as well. We didn’t have any power for two days.” 

The Richland campus sustained minor damage, including fallen trees. Campus was closed Oct. 21 due to a power outage. It was restored the next day.

Richland students Clarence Akagu and Hyeomgin Goo both live near close to campus. They were at home the night of the storm. 

“It was really stormy and windy. After the tornado was gone, I saw that my car was damaged. A tree branch had fallen on the rear windshield and had cracked it. Nothing else really happened,” said Akagu.

Goo, on the other hand, didn’t experience the tornado until he left his house. He didn’t hear anything from inside the apartment. 

“When I went outside I saw how the streets were totally messed up. There were broken trees and damaged roofs everywhere. My apartment complex had a power outage and even the traffic light on the road was out. I wasn’t too affected by it, but my apartment complex was a little bit damaged that’s all,” Goo said. 

Richland’s Lakeside Resource Center is there to guide students to the necessary resources. The Richland food pantry and food truck are available to help those in need. Click HERE to see a list of 2019 Tornado Recovery resources.

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