Rowlett tornado memorial service canceled due to severe weather concerns

A memorial in Rowlett to commemorate three years since a deadly tornado outbreak was canceled due to Wednesday’s severe weather threat.

An EF-4 tornado on December 26, 2015, caused extensive damage in Rowlett, Garland and Sunnyvale. Thirteen people were killed in the severe weather event.

In Rowlett, many storm victims moved away while others faced a long recovery. They’ve been through a lot over the last three years. And for the families, it’s a very interesting time for reflection as a similar storm pattern approaches.

Don Marvel remembers the day well. Like so many in Rowlett, he returned to find the crumbled remains of the home he had lived in since 1992.

“We moved 11 times in a year and a half or whatever time it was. Stayed in a little trailer. Just whatever we could do,” Marvel said. “In the meantime, you still had to pay your mortgage payment.”

Marvel and his family rebuilt and finally moved back in last October.

“It’s better than what it was,” he said.

Neighbor Michael Girouard, his wife, and dog rode out the storm inside.

“Our house was totaled, but it had some framing,” Girouard said. “The house next door was gone. The empty lot on the corner was flat.”

A picture in Girouard’s office serves as a constant reminder of what they emerged to find.

“You go through a rationalization when you hear things banging around outside. ‘Oh, that’s ok. I’ll fix that.’ Or ‘I’ll fix that window,’” Girouard recalled. “But then the roof blows off, you realize you’ve gone passed simple repairs.”

Girouard was displaced for 18 months. Along the way, they bought the leveled house next door and built their dream house on both lots.

Both men say they have a new appreciation for severe weather, especially the timing of this latest system. But they’re home for good — whatever comes their way.