One dead as tornado hits South Texas near Gulf Coast

At least one person was killed when a tornado struck an unincorporated Gulf Coast community near the southern tip of Texas, damaging dozens of homes and downing power lines early Saturday, authorities said.

Roberto Flores, 42, was killed when the EF1 tornado struck the community of Laguna Heights, located on the mainland facing South Padre Island, Cameron County Sheriff Eric Garza said.

An EF1 tornado has wind speeds of 86-110 mph (138-177 kph), according to the National Weather Service.

“Apparently it went right through that community,” Garza said, “people don’t want to leave their houses because they’re afraid someone is going to walk in there and start stealing things.”

Garza said the sheriff’s department is helping provide security in the area.

At least 10 people were also hospitalized, two in critical condition, and several people suffered cuts and bruises, said Tom Hushen, Cameron County’s emergency management coordinator. The tornado hit around 4 am

Hushen said the tornado “caused significant damage to residences…we have between 40 and 60 damaged homes,” some severely damaged.

The Texas tornado follows an outbreak of dozens of tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado that caused damage but no fatalities.

Laguna Heights is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of the US-Mexico border in Brownsville and is not prone to active tornadoes, although it has been active this spring, weather service meteorologist Angélica Soria said. Weather service radar observed the storm’s rotation, she said, prompting a tornado warning.

“We had a tornado warning just north of this area a couple of weeks ago,” Soria added, “but we were unable to confirm that tornado, even though it was indicated by radar.”


González reported from McAllen, Texas, and Miller reported from Oklahoma City.

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