According to authorities, the hurricane in Port Isabel caused “extensive damage” to multiple buildings and injured 10 people. Out of ten individuals, two are in critical condition.
A tornado hit a rural area near the Texas coast on Saturday, cutting out electricity to hundreds of houses and claiming the lives of at least one person.
Around 4 a.m. a violent thunderstorm generated a tornado that ripped through Laguna Heights and the surrounding areas, including Port Isabel near South Padre Island.
According to Port Isabel police chief Robert Lopez, ten individuals sustained injuries, and two are in critical condition. The remaining individuals suffered minor cuts and bruises.
In the early morning hours, road authorities had to temporarily close a highway to facilitate the efforts of crews who were diligently clearing away debris and addressing downed power lines. However, Chief Lopez has confirmed that the road closures were officially lifted during the afternoon, allowing for the resumption of regular traffic flow. It is worth noting that a shelter designed for emergencies had accommodated approximately 35 individuals who sought refuge, according to Chief Lopez’s remarks.
According to a Cameron County Sheriff’s Department representative, authorities were actively assessing the affected region to evaluate the extent of the damage incurred.
Angelica Soria, a meteorologist stationed at the National Weather Service office in Brownsville, Texas, revealed that initial evaluations conducted by officials indicated the presence of a tornado on the ground for five minutes. The observed destruction corresponded to the characteristic effects of a tornado, featuring wind velocities ranging from 86 to 110 miles per hour. The tornado was officially classified as an EF1 tornado, signifying its strength and intensity.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Barry Goldsmith, who oversees warning coordination in Brownsville, no prior warning has been issued.
In a Saturday news conference, Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevio Jr. emphasized the invaluable advantage that is available with hurricanes prediction, highlighting the timely and crucial advanced warnings received, verses the limited warning options available for tornados. He pointed out that hurricane warnings provide a proactive awareness, enabling necessary preparations as they indicate the high likelihood of an impending hurricane. As Barry revealed, tornadoes are rare occurrences unless there is a hurricane or tropical storm in the region. He wishes that more warning could be given.
The entire area of Laguna Heights was placed under a curfew from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, and workers from numerous agencies were on the site to help with recovery and cleaning efforts. The shelter was established, and support was provided by groups such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross to any individuals who had lost their homes due to the storm. The county court approved a disaster declaration, and a temporary shelter in Port Isabel was promptly established, offering assistance and support to 38 individuals in need.
Garza said that his department is assisting in providing security for the region. At the same time, Trevio stated that authorities were contemplating implementing a midnight curfew to assist storm victims who fear that they may be robbed if they leave their homes.
Meteorologist Angelica Soria from the National Weather Service observed that Laguna Heights, located about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of the U.S.-Mexico border near Brownsville, is normally not prone to tornado occurrences. However, this spring has seen increased activity in the area, emphasizing the need for caution. Furthermore, the region is now preparing for the oncoming beginning of hurricane season, adding urgency to its preparation efforts.
The Laguna Heights tornado was just one of several that were claimed to have touched down during the last week, especially in the Plains, where over a dozen tornadoes were confirmed on Thursday morning.
Tornadoes have been a constant presence throughout May in Texas, causing widespread damage and creating difficulties for local communities. Texans have shown their strength, compassion, and unity despite the tragic event.