Meet Ben, who kept working when his own home was damaged
Ben's first job was to help pick up power lines that were lying across Highway 6 in front of the Dairy Queen. But he kept hearing firefighters' chatter about damage at one particular residential intersection.
His thought? "Whoa, that's my house."
Ben, his wife and two young children were at his father's home in Kopperl on Jan. 15 when an EF-1 tornado spent three minutes on the ground and caused significant damage in the heart of Clifton.
More than 900 homes and businesses were without power, and power lines, poles and cross arms were down around town.
"We were pretty worried about it," says Ben, a fourth-year TNMP lineman. "When something like this happens, people want to get out and drive around and look. There were a lot of lines out on the ground. We were trying to make sure all the wire was up in the air."
'Then they started saying tornado'
He'd known earlier in the day that heavy weather was expected in the area. Tornados, though, were considered less likely.
"They said storms. No big deal – just like any time," Ben recalls. "Then they started saying tornado. I told my family, 'I've got to go back because I've got to go to work.' I came straight to the warehouse and got working."
Every TNMP lineman in Central Texas who wasn't out of town for the holiday weekend was called, and all of them reported for duty. You could understand why Ben might have left work after his brother confirmed damage to his house. But he stayed on the job.
"My family wasn't there, so I wasn't that worried," he says. "We worked the whole night, working (to restore power) in that area. I was able to drive by a couple times and look. But they had my whole street closed down."
Community stepping up
The damage at Ben's home was sobering.
The front porch was "picked up and slammed back down." The roof was damaged. Sheetrock fell from the ceiling of the garage – although no cars were inside. A long back porch was mostly ripped off the slab. Trees were blown over, damaging a friend's pickup and knocking down fences.
"We were lucky," Ben says about not having been home.
Power was restored to most customers by about midnight, but additional repairs by Ben and his colleagues continued throughout the early morning hours. He finally was able to see his home later in the morning and found Clifton High School students organized by coaches and FFA teachers helping clean up his block.
"There were a bunch of high school kids in my back yard, cutting trees and hauling them off," he says. "I jumped in there with them. I didn’t want to go to sleep without helping them first.
"That was pretty cool. I'm glad the community came together like that."