As the grey storm clouds began to build, people went about their daily routines as afternoon showers have been common. Then the rain began. Soon hail would follow. An oddity in Nevada, but what followed that hail was unheard of, as a category EF-1 tornado swept through the area.
At approximately 3:15 p.m. Ann and Nelson Wasserman were in their home located on O Street. Ann heard the hail and went to grab her iPad to photograph the event. Once she was in her backyard, ready to photograph, she heard a loud noise, saw tree limbs flying by and felt a powerful suction.
She grabbed and held onto the back door and was pushed against the trailer from the force.
Nelson had been in the home with company. He had gone to open the front door to allow their guest to move her car before the hail destroyed it.
Ann began to yell for Nelson, who in his own words, “I tried to run.” As he points to his cane.
He grabbed his wife and helped her back inside.
It was over as fast as it had started but now they sit in limbo as to what will happen next.
I asked if their home was a total loss. The destruction is extensive. Both their cars were damaged by winds and hail, their carport is somewhere near I Street and the water damage inside the home is extreme.
“We don’t know. No one has called us back. They are supposed to be here sometime today [Monday],” Nelson explains.
At the same time, Ann is pointing out pieces of her carport which is scattered throughout yards and vacant lots.
“I had railroad ties which held our fence down. They were snapped in half,” Nelson says.
As they explain the damage, I point out that when Independent-News staff went out to photograph right after the tornado, the first thing which was noticed is that despite the mess, his American flag was untouched and unharmed and still flew. Nelson said he had many notice the flag, in spite of the debris.
The Mineral County building inspector has deemed the home uninhabitable, per the Wassermans. Their neighbor, Jack Desai with America’s Best Inn and Suites, has graciously opened his motel up to the couple at no charge. A gesture which touched the Wasserman’s deeply.
Right now, they don’t know what their next plan is. They know they will be moving back to the south, where Ann will take care of her sister who is currently ill.
“Who ever thought a tornado would hit Hawthorne?” Ann would question.
It will take more than a tornado
In 1977, Jack Desai purchased the Monarch Motel and Café. Here he would raise his family of three with wife, Sudha. He has seen people come and go; his children grow and leave but has always had the Monarch as a home base.
Friday afternoon, the tornado almost destroyed the place he holds near and dear.
The roof of one side of the motel is completely torn away. Not only are the rooms sopping wet with ceilings close to falling down, but so is the living quarters where family members of the Desai’s live.
All of the family’s grocery supply was destroyed. Because they are Indian, the family purchases food from California and stores it in bulk. The shelves now sit bare.
The insurance adjuster questioned Jack as to where the family is now living. He told her, “I can’t rent rooms here now. They are living with me. They are not animals. They are my family.”
Harshil, age 12 and Jack’s nephew, was living at the Monarch Motel when the twister hit. He noticed the hail and rain and like any curious child, he wanted to film it, so he took his iPad and began to film the precipitation.
While filming, he saw the tornado. The disaster preparedness training Harshil had learned in school kicked in and quickly, he hid under the bed. He demonstrates to me where he hid until Jack could get to him.
“Training like this helps. The school district needs to know that,” said Jack.
While describing the tornado, Harshil says, “It was massive. I saw pieces of metal flying. I could see the whole tornado.”
Jack meanwhile had noticed the tornado and quickly drove from his other hotel, America’s Best Inn and Suites, in the rain and hail, to make sure that Harshil was safe.
Always welcoming, Jack would take people off the streets and keep them safely inside until the winds subsided.
In Room 131, a guest waited out the storm, watching the roof blow of the motel in front of her.
Talking about the motel and all that he has accomplished, Jack lets us know that afterwards, he became emotional and found that he was frozen, unable to comprehend what happened. As we speak, he is finally realizing the work ahead for him and his family.
Through the tragedy – Jack and his family have been overwhelmed by the kindness of friends and family near and far. Phone calls, Facebook messages and visitors are inquiring to their health and well-being. As Jack has rallied around members of our community, they are beginning to rally around him in this time of need.
Local contractor Rod Leavitt showed up to help put out safety cones; the motel’s maintenance man Rick (whom they call family) arrived to help the clean-up process and his two twin sons, along with their families, showed up Saturday morning to the home they were raised to help where needed.
Jack also gave praise to a local officer that checked in on him and offered assistance in the strom’s aftermath.
“The only one to stop was officer Matt Goodrich of the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department, who stopped right after the storm to make sure we were ok. He helped in moving the guest from Room 131 to America’s Best Inn and Suites.”
“We need more officers like him. We need more Goody’s here [in Mineral County], than anything,” Jack tells me.
After securing his motel after the tornado, Jack and Harshil would continue with community spirit. Together they went to Willie Moody’s home (just across the street from the Monarch Motel) to check on their neighbor and see if they could assist.
He would find his roof in her yard, but his friend Moody doing well inside the old Frontier Liquor Store which she owned and ran for years, surrounded by family, friends and firemen.
As news broadcasters began to roll into town to cover the tornado, Jack once again opened the doors of his motel to those that needed internet or a place to just sit. This time, he would ask for a favor.
“I asked not for myself, but for the community. We need industry and commercial jobs. Please send them our way. I will help them, personally…we need to build this community back up,” Jack reflects back on his conversation.
“Community is helping your own. It is my duty to help. It is the least I can do. I did it from my heart. We are alive,” Jack says with a smile.