Storm swamps dealership
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Severe thunderstorms rumbling through the
Cedar Creek Lake area Friday left one family soaked after their vehicle
hydroplaned into a ditch, and left a historic Mabank business with major
Storm-warning sirens went off in Seven Points, Mabank, Eustace and Gun
Barrel City just before a funnel cloud was spotted five miles south of Gun
Reportedly, the tornado never touched down, but the winds and heavy rains
generated in the vicinity heavily damaged Tri-County Ford in Mabank.
The dealership’s original shop building, which dates from the late 1920s,
collapsed between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, narrowly missing a cleaning
A husband-and-wife team cleans the auto dealership’s offices after hours,
and the woman was in the shop area, service manager Chris Pickens reported.
“She heard the building start to creak, and she got out,” he said. “About
two minutes later, it fell in.”
Pickens said he got to the business about 10 minutes after that, and found
“two to three inches” of water standing in the building.
“Of course, it was still raining,” he added.
The Tarrant Regional Water District office at the lake spillway reported
receiving 2.93 inches of rain Friday and early Saturday. As of Tuesday
morning, the lake level had risen 1.21 feet since The Monitor’s last check
Thursday, Dec. 28.
Insurance will cover most of the loss at Tri-County Ford, which was
extensive, owner Andrea Pickens said Tuesday.
In addition to the building itself, some equipment – such as a
wheel-alignment machine – was damaged, as well as one Lincoln Town Car, a
trade-in being prepared for placement on the dealership’s used-car lot.
While adjusters had already visited the business, Andrea Pickens said she
did not have a damage estimate yet.
“My feeling is we will have to go back with a new building,” she said. “The
worst part is that all our power and all the (telephone) connections are in
“We’ve got some (service) bays that are not hurt, so they can be ready as
soon as we get power,” she said. “We’ve also got records that got wet.”
Mabank Electric employees were on the scene Tuesday trying to restore
electric power to the dealership’s showroom and office building, which was
The dealership employs about two dozen people, and about half of them work
in the shop area.
“This will stop us from taking care of our customers, and that’s a big
problem,” Chris Pickens said. “I’ve been wanting to add on to the shop for a
while, and it looks like I’ll be able to do that.
“I had planned on a little different approach, though,” he added. “We’ll be
back as soon as we can.”
Andrea Pickens said the dealership could begin selling cars as soon as power
(and heat), along with telephone and Internet access, were restored to the
Ford Motor Company regional and main offices were closed for the New Year’s
holiday, and many remained closed Tuesday as part of a federal holiday
declared following the death of former President Gerald R. Ford, Dec. 27.
“I’m going to put up some Mason jars around town (for donations),” co-owner
Joe Pickens joked. “I know insurance is not going to take care of
Gun Barrel City firefighters were called out during Friday evening’s
downpour to rescue a family of five, who had left their mobile home seeking
more substantial shelter in town.
The unidentified family, which included several children, was driving down
Welch Lane when their vehicle hydroplaned and landed in a ditch.
The car immediately took on water. Firefighters were called out to rescue
them, Gun Barrel City police investigator Judie Burley told The Monitor
They were transported to the police department and provided with towels and
No injuries were reported, Burley said.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Tri-County Ford service manager Chris Pickens eyes a collapsed
roof atop a Lincoln Town Car inside the downtown Mabank auto
dealership’s service area Tuesday. The roof on the historic building,
which dated back to the late 1920s, collapsed during a severe thunderstorm
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer
KAUFMAN–Family, friends and citizens packed the
86th District Courtroom in Kaufman County Monday, as 14 office holders were
After Kaufman County Judge Wayne Gent issued the oath of office to the new
district attorney, Rick Harrison, Harrison’s staff of assistant district
attorneys and investigators took their oath of office.
The ceremonies began as 422nd District Judge B. Michael Chitty gave the oath
of office to Gent and three other judges – incumbent 86th District Judge
Howard Tygret and incumbent County-Court-at-Law Judge Erleigh Norville,
along with Judge David Lewis, who was elected in November to preside over
the newest court, County Court-at-Law No. 2, which officially began with his
Gent took over the swearing in of county officials, including incumbents
beginning another term – Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Johnny Perry,
Precinct 2 JP Don Cates and two newly elected justices, Precinct 3 JP Mike
Smith and Precinct 4 JP Johnny Adams.
District Clerk Sandra Featherston and County Clerk Laura Hughes also recited
their oaths of office.
Gent also issued the oath of office to County Treasurer Johnny Countryman.
Newly elected Precinct 2 Commissioner Ray Clark was sworn in.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Deller also took the oath of office.
Gent commended Deller as the Kaufman County commissioners’ court senior
Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Newly sworn in Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Johnny
Adams (left) and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Ray
Clark sign their bond papers. See more photos, page 4A.
Project to restore Trinity River
Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–One of the state’s largest wetland restoration
project is under final review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“They’re taking land that was historically bottomland floodplain forest,
cleared years ago for agriculture, and it’s going to be restored to those
pre-settlement conditions,” Brent Jasper explained to a Dallas Morning News
Jasper is one of those reviewing the project for the U.S. Army Corps of
The project, when fully developed, will encompass about 4,200 acres in
Kaufman County between Seagoville, Crandall and Combine, along the East Fork
of the Trinity River, once the Caroline Hunt Trust Estate.
It’s called land mitigation banking.
When wetland is encroached upon by roads and development, builders are
required by federal policy to restore wetland acreage elsewhere.
This is done through land exchanges, or monetary contributions overseen by
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers towards wetlands restoration.
About 1,840 acres of the project will have a secondary use.
The North Texas Municipal Water District will be piping water, after the
natural processes have cleaned it, 40 miles north to feed water-starved Lake
Lavon, similar to what the Tarrant Regional Water District is doing near
Six wastewater plants in cities east of Dallas discharge their treated
effluent into the East Fork of the Trinity River.
Not only will it be a supplier of water to drought-stricken counties near
Lake Lavon, the project will provide a haven for plants, birds and other
By 2030, the East Fork project is designed to provide as much water itself
as Lake Lavon does when full, Jasper said.
Partial approval last summer enabled the construction of pump stations, and
massive wetland “cells” have been forming on both sides of U.S. Highway 175
between Seagoville and Crandall.
The project, when fully approved (in the coming months), will be known as
the Bunker Sands Mitigation Bank, after the late Bunker Sands, son of
Caroline Hunt and nephew to Bunker Hunt and the late Lamar Hunt, whose
vision for the project was ahead of his time.
Sands died at age 54 in 2003 after winning state and national awards for his
Mike Rickman of North Texas Municipal, Jasper and John Dziminiski, who
oversees the land of the bank, see the project as a win-win-win for the
environment, for the North Texas water district’s 1.6 million customers, and
for developers who might find it difficult to create new wetlands to offset
those they destroy.
Dziminiski plans a nature center in honor of Sands to educate generations to
come of the importance of conservation and wetland habitats.