74ºF

Tornado-damaged Devine continues clean-up

DEVINE, Texas – It was a long day for residents impacted by Monday night's tornadoes in Medina County, where 30 structures were damaged or destroyed.

The small town of Devine took one of the hardest hits, but as is often the case, the destruction was very random -- some homes had minor damage while others a few hundred feet away were leveled.

"The walls were vibrating and all of a sudden, those loud buffeting winds and then ... you could feel some tear off," said resident Arthur Contreras, describing the sound of his roof being ripped off.

He and his family took cover in the hallway until the storm passed -- then they realized they were stuck inside.

"We couldn't get out the front door," he said.

Neighbors came to their rescue with chainsaws and that's when Contreras realized the extent of the damage.

"The roof was gone," he said. "We found it this morning. It's all along that back wall."

Heavy rains that followed destroyed what the twister left behind.

"The ceiling fans are just all warped and the insulation is falling," Contreras said. "It's just a mess."

Surprisingly, the family business that sits just a few hundred feet away was left unscathed, save a few missing shingles.

Next door, however, a small church was leveled.

"The guitar that my dad used on Sunday, we found it under a table untouched (and) not even wet," said Lanelle Parish.

Parish said only a few items have been located but she said she was blessed because her parents survived the storm.

"If you look (at) the house behind me, the roof is gone," she said. "Every house from here all the way down to the creek has been destroyed, but God gave me a miracle and I was in that miracle whenever this storm took place."

The saying goes that lightning never strikes twice, but that doesn't hold true in Devine.

The family that runs the church that was destroyed said back in 2000, another tornado touched down in nearly the same spot and damaged a building.

Cleanup begins in Devine

Meanwhile, Devine continues to clean up after the storms.

Volunteers spent much of Tuesday pitching in to help out their neighbors and shared stories about their experiences.

"I actually watched one of the funnel clouds as it turned into a full-grown tornado and touch down," said Medina County Sheriff Randy Brown. "For some of the people that were in those houses while that thing was on top of them, I can only imagine what they went through."

Brown took a helicopter tour of the damage on Tuesday and he said he could see two paths left by two separate twisters.

He said it appeared they skipped around at first but then there were areas where the tornadoes were on the ground for long periods of time and they left a fairly wide path of destruction.

He said at this point, there is no need for a curfew to secure the areas that were hardest hit but his deputies would be increasing patrols to keep people out of the area.

On Tuesday, local residents and businesses dropped of donations to the Devine Community Center where an emergency shelter has been set up with food and cots. That's also were volunteers from the San Antonio chapter of the American Red Cross were coordinating their recovery efforts.

Three damage assessment teams surveyed 30 homes that were impacted by the storm.

The data they collect will help determine how much aid is sent here.

"We examine the structure and we have a chart that tells us how to rate it as far as destroyed, major damage, minor damage or affected damage, and we rate the house in that order and then turn it in to the Washington headquarters," said Larry Horton, with the American Red Cross, San Antonio chapter.

The cleanup will continue here Wednesday morning. Residents will be getting some help from inmates at a prison in Hondo, who will be picking up debris starting at 8 a.m.


About the Author: