Deputy shares recovery update after tornado strikes home, injures wife and him

Published 12:36 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

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ORANGE — An Orange County sheriff’s deputy and his wife are taking life one day at a time as they live temporarily in a travel trailer following a January tornado that damaged their house and injured them both.

Deputy Jimmy Smith and his wife are waiting to hear from their insurance company on the fate of their home, for which they are still making payments.

Smith and his wife were inside the kitchen in Orange when the Jan. 25 tornado struck.

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Smith remembers getting the cell phone notifications that a tornado was in Orange County but it didn’t say where it was. They also were trying to decide whether or not to leave.

“We couldn’t get any info as to where the tornado was. By the time I realized it was on top of us, it was too late. We were in the kitchen when the tree came and split the home,” Smith said.

The deputy said it was a frightening situation. Pieces of the rafter beam came down and hit him on the head, and debris hit his wife in the face.

“That was all within like five minutes. It happened that fast,” he said. “We didn’t have a chance to make a decision.”

Smith and his wife went to an emergency room to be checked for head injuries. There were no serious injuries, and Smith went back to work the Monday after the tornado, he said.

A tree fell on Jimmy Smith’s home. (Courtesy photo)


The tornado left areas in Orange County damaged, and both ends of the road that Smith lives on was blocked by debris.

Smith said there were people with chainsaws and tractors and he had family members show up equipped, as well, to help move limbs and debris.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office Alumni stepped up to help the Smiths and organized a benefit that was held last week.

Alumni association president Denise Colley said the group was able to organize the benefit in a week’s time and the event went well.

Colley thanked people for their support via the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page this week.

“To all the volunteers: we appreciate you very much for all the help you provide to have a successful link sale. Most importantly! For all the Individual and Company donations, words cannot express the gratitude we have for you,” Colley said in the post. “Our goal is to build a bridge between communities and law enforcement. The alumni will continue to sponsor events throughout the year for our citizens and their families. I look forward for our community to come together in the future.”

Smith said the association is wonderful and he did not know about the benefit at first.

“It’s not something I asked for, by no stretch of the imagination, ” he said. “I had no knowledge until it got too big.”

He gave thanks to the association and the community that stepped up to help.