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Rebuilding Jarrell: As the city's population swells, infrastructure demands increase

The latest census data shows the City of Jarrell now has more than 2,300 people.

JARRELL, Texas — Back in 1997, Jarrell, Texas, was a town of just a few hundred people.

It was a close-knit community, a place where everybody knew everybody. Many people in the area had family tracing back to the 1800s.

That year's devastating twister took the town by surprise.

“I was at my in-laws, in their house, and it took everything but their bathroom. That’s where we were,” LaDonna Peterson told KVUE in the days after the tornado. “For those who made it, I don’t know how they made it because there’s a lot of people right around us that didn’t. But we made it and I don’t know why except that there’s a reason and we’ll know that someday. Because God had a plan for us somewhere.”

Today, the town is growing at a fast pace. Developments are going up all over town.

Jarrell ISD is preparing for a boom in the next 10 years, building a new school. The student population is expected to grow from 2,878 this school year to 10,756 by the 2031 school year, according to a school district spokesperson.

The latest U.S. census data indicates the City of Jarrell's population is 2,318. An extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) within Jarrell has an estimated population of 11,826, according to the Jarrell mayor’s office.


While it’s still a small town, the dynamics are changing.

“At points in time in the quiet of the night, I kind of sit there and go, ‘How the hell are we going to keep up with this thing?'” Mayor Larry Bush said.

He was elected to the city council in 2007 before becoming mayor in 2014. One of his key priorities is growth – keeping Jarrell booming. With companies like Tesla opening and Samsung expanding in Central Texas, he’s expecting even more people to move in.

“The biggest challenge we've had as a small city is identifying and bringing in the talents and skills that we need to help us grow in the future,” he said.

The growth can only happen so quickly, though. Bush said Jarrell often competes with bigger cities in the southwest part of Williamson County for infrastructure needs.

“The restrictions on growth kind of are only those that are the ones that have to do with infrastructure,” he said.

The top priorities are more water, more sewer and transportation, he said. Over the next 15 years, Jarrell is expected to need more than 15 million extra gallons of water per day, Bush said.

He compares Jarrell today to Round Rock in the late 1970s.

But even with the explosive growth, it’s not lost on Bush where the town came from and all of the locals who have missed their family members over the years.

“There'll always be some number of people that remember the tornado, remember Jarrell for the tornado. The rest of us are going to look at ... what we are today and what we're going to become. And the fact that this is one of the best places in Texas to live,” he said.

For all of KVUE's coverage honoring the anniversary of the 1997 Jarrell tornado, visit KVUE.com/Jarrell. Watch our full "Remembering Jarrell: 25 Years Later" special report below:

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