LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Texas (AP) — At least one person was killed when a tornado struck an unincorporated community on the Gulf coast near the southern tip of Texas, damaging dozens of homes and knocking down power lines early Saturday, authorities said.
Roberto Flores, 42, died when the EF1 tornado struck the community of Laguna Heights, located on the mainland across from South Padre Island, said Cameron County Sheriff Eric Garza.
An EF1 tornado has wind speeds of 86-110 mph (138-177 kph), according to the National Weather Service.
“Apparently it went straight through that community,” Garza said, “Individuals don’t want to leave their houses because they’re afraid that somebody will go in there and start stealing stuff.”
Garza said his the sheriff’s department is helping provide security for the area.
At least 10 people were also hospitalized — two in critical condition — and multiple people suffered cuts and bruises, said Tom Hushen, the emergency management coordinator for Cameron County. The tornado hit at about 4 a.m.
Hushen said the tornado “caused significant damage to residences … we have 40-60 damaged homes,” some heavily damaged.
The Texas tornado follows an outbreak of dozens of twisters in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado that caused damage but no reported deaths.
Laguna Heights is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of the U.S.-Mexico border at Brownsville and is not prone to tornado active, although this spring has been active, said weather service meteorologist Angelica Soria. Weather service radar observed rotation in the storm, she said, which prompted a tornado warning.
“We did have a tornado warning just north of this area a couple of weeks ago,” Soria added, “but we were not able to confirm that tornado, even though it was radar indicated.”