OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 11:12 AM – Sunday, May 14, 2023
Just before dawn on Saturday, a strong tornado tore through a town close to Texas’ southernmost point, damaging dozens of homes and bringing down power lines, according to authorities. One person was killed and a curfew was put in place.
According to Tom Hushen, the emergency management coordinator for Cameron County, at least 10 additional local residents, including two who were listed in severe condition, were admitted to hospitals.
Eddie Treviño Jr., the judge of Cameron County, announced a midnight curfew for anyone under the age of 17, which is scheduled to terminate on May 16th in order to “mitigate the effects of this public health and safety emergency.”
Additionally, the injunction prevents visitors from Laguna Heights from going into its residential zones.
In the unincorporated village of Laguna Heights, which is situated on the mainland across from South Padre Island, off the Gulf of Mexico, the tornado struck at around 4 a.m. local time when most residents were sound asleep in their homes.
The county has some of the highest rates of poverty in Texas.
There was no notice beforehand. Instead, the tornado’s initial warning “went out at the same time it was touching ground,” said Barry Goldsmith, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Brownsville.
“With hurricanes we have the benefit of getting some advance warning, we know it’s probably on its way,” Treviño said. “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.”
A 42-year-old man named Roberto Flores passed away after being “basically crushed as a result of the damage to his mobile home,” according to Treviño.
The weather service classified the storm as an EF1 tornado after measuring wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph. It only persisted for two to four minutes, but it completely destroyed the region.
Up to 60 residences suffered damage. 38 individuals received assistance from a temporary shelter in the neighboring city of Port Isabel after the county judge approved a disaster declaration.
“Apparently it went straight through that community… Individuals don’t want to leave their houses because they’re afraid that somebody will go in there and start stealing stuff,” said County Sheriff Eric Garza.
Garza claimed that his agency was assisting in securing the region.
According to Angelica Soria, a weather service meteorologist, Laguna Heights lies roughly 20 miles northeast of the US-Mexico border at Brownsville and is not typically prone to tornadoes, despite this spring being active.
The region is now also preparing for the start of hurricane season.
The Texas tornado follows after a spate of numerous tornadoes that hit Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Colorado, although those did not result in any fatalities.
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