Severe weather that led to torrential rainfall in Texas also spun up a tornado early Saturday morning, killing two people in an area not prepared for tornadoes.
The deadly tornado touched down in Laguna Heights, on the eastern coastline of Texas, around 2 a.m. local time Saturday. Local emergency management officials reported multiple injuries and property damage. Officials from neighboring Port Isabel later confirmed the fatalities. At least 10 people were injured.
Port Isabel officials stated that multiple structures “sustained extensive damage,” and damaged power lines caused outages in the area. Highway 100 in the area was blocked to all traffic as of early Saturday afternoon.
“Devastating images captured this morning by Griselda Mendoza in Laguna Heights. The Cameron County Emergency Management Coordinator has reported tornado damage in the area. Hwy 100 is closed between Laguna Vista and Pt Isabel,” said KRGV First Warn 5 on Twitter.
Search and rescue operations were noted as “ongoing,” with crews from multiple agencies on the scene assisting with recovery and cleanup. Organizations such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross were aiding with shelter needs for anyone unhoused due to the tornado.
“With hurricanes we have the benefit of getting some advance warning; we know it’s probably on its way,” Eddie Treviño Jr. said during a Saturday press conference, a Cameron County judge. “With a tornado, like Barry mentioned, it’s not a common scenario unless we have a hurricane/tropical cyclone in the area. So, we didn’t have the benefit of a warning.”
Texas has been dealing with a stalled storm with more rain and severe thunderstorms continuing into the weekend. Flash flood warnings were hoisted for an area between San Antonio and Victoria, Texas, midday Saturday as downpours plagued the region. The storm also gusted winds to 73 miles per hour in Doole, Texas.
“With the last time, we got a tornado warning, we were like, it’s not going to hit,” said Isabel Ochoa, Laguna Heights resident. “Nothing happened. So we thought this time, oh nothing’s going to happen. So we just prepared for rain, just flooding.”
Residents in the areas have said that tornadoes in the area are very rare to see as they normally prepare for hurricanes more often.
The tornado was clocked at 86-110 mph that was categorized as an EF1 tornado according to the weather service.
Around 60 homes were damaged in the Laguna Heights-Port Isabel area where 38 people were assisted with temporary shelter.
“Despite how dry it has been across much of Texas, the rain can fall heavily enough over a short amount of time to cause flash flooding and rapid water rises on small streams, creeks and dangerous flooding on streets and highways,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski warned.
The Laguna Heights tornado was one of many that touched down this week, particularly in the Plains, where over a dozen tornadoes were reported on Thursday.
Laguna Heights sits 20 miles above the U.S.-Mexico border nearby Brownsville. The area is not prone to tornadoes.
Produced in association with AccuWeather
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