It was all hands on deck Saturday night.
Nine tornadoes ripped through North Texas. Four SDF-trained Search Teams were deployed with Texas Task Force 2 (TX-TF2) based in Dallas. They searched what remained of two of the hardest hit suburbs of Garland and Rowlett, where an EF-4 tornado left hundreds homeless and wandering the streets.
The SDF teams, joined by Terri Griffin & Gizmo and Mary Hargrove & Duke (also of TX-TF2), assisted in the rescue efforts for 20 hours straight. They "cleared" 953 structures, finally standing down late last night when all residents were accounted for.
Our hearts go out to those who were affected by this storm and to the families of those whose lives were lost. We are so grateful to Texas Task Forces 1 and 2 and the legions of first responders and individuals who assisted in the rescue efforts.
"Driving through the wreckage was surreal. People were wandering around in the dark with flashlights, with no homes and nowhere to go. Two storms collided for a massive tornado but tornadoes were popping up everywhere. Skye was amazing. He just wanted to go. The Search Dogs get into another gear when it's time to work. He was just so excited. There would be one house standing untouched and the very next house was destroyed—Skye knew which one needed to be searched. I had to bust a window to get him into a home and he barely paused. Nothing would stop him for a second. I had to force him to take a break because in these situations we all want to just keep going. One of the firefighters said, 'God bless you and your dogs for what you do. You're amazing to watch.'" - Andrea Sutcliffe
"One of our Task Force leaders said, 'If we had not had those dogs to clear some of the structures, it would have been impossible to get through all the wreckage.' There were two-story houses and apartment buildings that the first responders couldn't access. Having the dogs was an absolute necessity and blessing. Everyone we talked to had heeded the alert and waited out the tornado in their bathtub covered by mattresses. People did what they were told to do and it saved their lives. Most of the deceased had been driving on the roads at the time and had no warning. We had to cease search efforts twice because of the wind and rain. Regardless of being wet and cold, the dogs knew this is their job. We have to make them rest, be dried off, have a drink of water, before pushing the reset button. Thanks to the early warnings that had gone out, we didn't find any trapped victims. We asked other firefighters to do quick hides to get the dogs pumped up; it does wonders for their spirit and ability to keep going. The community was bringing clothes, food, and water. We didn't want for anything. It was people's way of helping in the only way they could." - Keri Grant
"The rubble was very slippery in the rain. I had boots on Hayden at first, but due to weather conditions this made things more dangerous for him. He searched in badly hit houses but there were no indications of live human scent. It was challenging and a good experience for both of us. Hayden pushed through the challenges and got the job done!" - Mike Hargrove