Aftermath of high winds wreaks havoc for many
By Sharon Wisch-Ray
A quiet Sunday afternoon, June 9, quickly turned treacherous when a violent thunderstorm whipped through the Dallas area about 2 p.m. Although winds ranged from 50 miles per hour to more than 70 miles per hour, outdoor sirens did not sound.
Flash flooding occurred rapidly as the banks of creeks and culverts crested, sending water into streets in many residential neighborhoods in North Dallas and making them difficult to pass.
There were no serious injuries to Jewish community members, though many lost power and trees, and sustained damage to their homes. The JCC and several synagogues were affected throughout the week. Many members of the Jewish community were observing Shavuot when the storm hit, and those who are shomer Shabbat were prevented from dealing with the aftermath of the storm until after dark on Monday, when the holiday ended. In some areas, residents were without power until Wednesday evening and into Thursday morning.
Camp starts a day late at the JCC
Perhaps the organization with the most challenging set of circumstances was the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center. The J was closed for Shavuot Sunday and Monday, and lost all power from the storm. Summer camp was supposed to start Tuesday, but because of the power outage, it was postponed.
JCC CEO Artie Allen explained that the J has lost power to one system or the other in the past, but this was the first time that it lost power to all its systems simultaneously.
From the pools and whirlpools to the exercise equipment and HVAC, each system had to be checked out methodically.
Camp was able to start Wednesday and all other programs resumed Wednesday.
In terms of damage to the property, Allen said the J lost a significant number of trees in the natural play areas and sustained damaged fences around the campus.
“We’ve had a tree service out there basically since the storm,” he said.
As things seemed to be approaching normal, the J lost power again to its fitness area Friday afternoon because of continued work by Oncor in the neighborhood.
“Because Shabbat was approaching we decided to go ahead and close for the rest of the afternoon,” he said.
Allen said that, interestingly, the J is served by two transformers, so part of the facility can be up while another can be down.
Allen lauded Oncor for quickly responding the J’s needs.
“We were very pleased with the response that we received from Oncor. They were very helpful. Obviously they couldn’t get the power on as quickly as we would have liked, but they were really amazing for us to work with.”
Allen said that Oncor understood the need that the JCC had to be back up and running, given the range of people it serves from toddlers in camp to seniors depending on hot meals.
“I believe the JCC was up and running two days before the rest of the neighborhood was up and running.”
Synagogues deal with storm aftermath
Several synagogues lost trees in addition to power and made adjustments to their Shavuot services.
At Temple Shalom, at the corner of Hillcrest and Alpha Road, many pecan and oak trees were damaged. Because of the downed power lines on the opposite side of Hillcrest and Alpha, the temple was without power until Tuesday.
“While there was only minor damage to our buildings, we suffered significant loss of trees. Our campus was a pecan orchard before the land was purchased in 1969, and there are dozens of mature pecan and oak trees throughout. An estimate of the cost to remove and remediate is not yet available but will be quite substantial,” Shalom Executive Director Steve Lewis shared with the TJP via email.
Further south at Hillcrest and Royal Lane, Tiferet Israel lost one tree in addition to its power for 30 hours.
“We were lucky and really only had minor damages. We were without power for 30 hours, so we lost the contents of our refrigerators and freezers. Services had to be held outside Monday for Shavuot, which was actually really lovely,” said longtime Tiferet office manager, Jennifer Williams.
Williams said the Tiferet community was grateful for their luck.
For Congregation Shearith Israel, at Douglas Avenue and Walnut Hill Lane, the power was out from Sunday through Wednesday. The synagogue held Shavuot services outdoors Monday. It lost all of its food in its kosher kitchens and kept people out of the office for a few workdays. A large tree crashed down, narrowly missing the stained-glass windows in the Aaron Sanctuary.
The Shearith Israel Cemetery on Dolphin Road was also affected by the storm. Two trees were toppled and the gate was knocked off its hinges.
A helping hand
Other synagogues that were not as hard-hit were quick to lend a helping hand to the community.
Temple Emanu-El sent “an email to all members letting them know we had power and that we welcomed them to stop by at any time to recharge their devices, have a cup of coffee and be greeted by our friendly, welcoming staff and the larger Temple community. As always, we were there to support them,” explained Connie Dufner, Emanu-El communications director.
She added that “many members did stop by the Tycher Gathering Space to recharge, read and have some coffee. Others set up mobile workspaces in our adult learning spaces. Being a hub for our members was exactly the role envisioned by our renovation and expansion of 2015-16, and we were happy so many chose to hang out for a bit at their Jewish home.”
Shaare Tefilla Executive Director Robyn Mirsky said that after Shaare’s power was restored late Tuesday afternoon, they offered the use of the internet to whoever needed it.
“Several people did take us up on the offer and it was nice to see everyone working together.”
Surveying the damage
Near Shadybank Drive, for example, the creek that runs down Meadowcreek crested and water was knee-high in some alleys. Water was as high as the wheel wells of some cars during the height of the storm.
As soon as the storm passed, it was evident that the Jewish community was hard-hit with regard to power outages and downed trees.