Chimney Park recovers from tornado

It’s been a little more than a month since a tornado tore through Chimney Park RV Resort in Mission. The storm, which occurred the night of May 31, caused damage to the city of Granjeno and parts of Mission.

Chimney Park had entire RVs flipped over and some residents in the 55-plus community are still missing belongings, but the recovery is going smoother than expected, according to park managers Wendi and Lloyd Burns.

20160708 MISSION Chimney Park“The first day someone asked me ‘Where you gonna start at?’ and I looked around and said ‘Where do you want me to start?’” Lloyd Burns said with a laugh. “It was just a mess, but we just started little by little. There’s still a little bit of debris left in the park; we’re slowly getting it out.”

About 40 percent of the park is restored, the park managers of four years said. Lloyd Burns said he expects to have the business fully functioning by the fall.

The biggest struggle has been cleaning up the debris, a process that was about 90 percent complete as of July 5, Lloyd said. The residents have filled about six rolloff dumpsters with the wreckage. Each dumpster cost about $550, according to Burns. But some of the debris flew to Mexico’s side of the Rio Grande River, and the park managers don’t have any plans to retrieve the remains yet.

“We keep thinking about things and we never saw them during the clean up. So I guess it’s all lost,” Wendi Burns said.

About 12 residents were living in the park when the storm hit, one of which was inside his trailer when the tornado winds caused the unit to flip, but no one in the park was injured, Wendi said.

Most of the residents are Winter Texans, and about 300 people are on site when the park is full. Many of the tenants have returned to the Valley to asses the damages to their units, a few homes have been completely restored and several are currently being repaired. Lloyd said some residents are waiting until they return in the fall to fix their homes.

Ron Greenup had his porch roof torn off, the side of his RV unit was “beat up” and his roof has a few holes in it, he said. The damage is going to cost about $8,000 to repair, but Greenup doesn’t have insurance, and he is ineligible to receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because he isn’t a permanent resident at Chimney Park.

“It’s been a little stressful but it’s not all the storm damage. I’ve got some medical problems too and I’ve had to break away from that,” Greenup said. “I’ll hopefully be able to fix it but I’ve got to get back. It’s been a hurry-up-and-get-it-done thing.”

Greenup, a Missouri native and Winter Texan of six years, was in Missouri when the storm hit. He wasn’t able to check on his part-time home until about three weeks ago because he was in the hospital. He has heart problems, he said. As soon as he is finished with his RV, he has to go back to Missouri to continue dealing with his medical issues.

“I’m just trying to get things back together,” Greenup said. “I like it here. I like this park.”

The Burns couple said they’ve received help from multiple agencies, organizations and businesses since the recovery period began. The border patrol trimmed trees in the park, Mission police and fire departments made lunch for the residents one day, the state highway patrol brought water to the residents and the police department provided security when the park didn’t have electricity for the first two weeks after the storm.

“Recovery is going a lot faster than I anticipated. Especially after the first day, when you’re just looking around and you didn’t know where to begin,” Wendi said.

About 100 trees had to be trimmed down due to the storm, but they’re starting to show life again, according to the Burns’.

“I’d say all of them except a couple have started putting on new growth. I just wish it would rain now,” Wendi said with a chuckle. “I don’t want rain but I do want rain.”

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