LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Texas – One person was killed and more than ten were injured after a tornado swept through the small community of Laguna Heights near Port Isabel early Saturday morning.

The storm, characterized by the National Weather Service as an EF1 tornado, on the Enhanced Fujita scale, brought powerful winds, heavy rain, and caused extensive property damage.

The twister hit the town without a warning around 4 a.m. as people were sleeping, causing major damages and leaving many homeless.

Many of the homes struck were wooden structures sitting on blocks or trailers and most of the damages were limited to the north area of this incorporated Cameron County community of about 2,000 people.

“We lost everything,” said Ernesto Araujo, as he and other family members were looking through the debris. “This is a total loss.”

Other residents faced the same situation, looking for whatever they could salvage and could not answer questions, saying they were too busy.

Ernesto Barca, who lives near the destruction left by the tornado, said the roof of a friend’s house was blown away by the twister.

A paramedic with the local Emergency Medical Services said one of the injured persons said the tornado swept him out of his bedroom as he was sleeping.

The person was transported to the hospital.

The twister mostly hit three streets – Taylor, Van Buren and Wilson – and knocked down lines and power poles along a section of Texas Highway 100.

About 40 people were transported to the Port Isabel Event Center where they were staying until further notice.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross were handling the relief effort.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., issued a disaster declaration.

Brownsville City Manager Helen Ramirez, AICP, said her city had mobilized its engineering, public works and fire department crews to assist residents aftermath the destructive tornado hit. 

The decision to send the crews was taken swiftly, Ramirez said, as Brownsville City officials recognized the need for immediate response to help the affected residents in their medical emergencies, cleanup, and recovery efforts. She said the crews focused on providing medical attention, transporting victims to local hospitals, clearing debris, assessing damage, and assisting residents as needed.

“Our thoughts are with our neighbors in Port Isabel,” Ramirez said. “We continue to stand ready to assist in any way we can. It’s times like these when communities must come together to support each other.”

Affected residents are urged to report any damage to their homes or surrounding property to local authorities. City officials are coordinating efforts with local and state emergency services to provide relief to those in need

Ramirez said the City of Brownsville supports the City of Port Isabel in ensuring community solidarity and resilience in the face of adversity. She said the cleanup operation is expected to continue for several days as the crews work diligently to help Port Isabel return to normalcy.

Anyone whose homes sustained damages can now file for economic relief. For more information, call 956-982-5415. 

Twisters are rare in this region of the Lone Star State but flare up occasionally during the Atlantic Hurricane Season that starts June 1 and ends on Nov. 30.

Editor’s Note: Rio Grande Guardian reporter Steve Taylor added to this story from Reynosa, Mexico.

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