MISSION — David Reyna, a resident of Mobile Gardens Community, was watching a Mavericks basketball game with his family when last week’s storm made a grand entrance into his neighborhood and cut off his satellite signal.
“I told the boys that it was time to go to bed,” he said, recalling the March 29 storm. “That’s when I saw that a piece of aluminum siding had come right through my bedroom wall and broke the headboard on my bed.”
Strong gusts of winds left trees and other debris in residents’ yards throughout the Mission-McAllen area, leaving many without power for several hours. The rainfall that accompanied the winds and hail also left several motorists stranded due to flooding in the area.
Within an eight-hour time period, the Mission Fire Department received 45 calls related to the severe storms that struck the area late last week.
Jim Campbell, a data acquisition program manager with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said the storm was actually two storms that had originated from Kenedy County. As the storm moved south it made most of its damage in McAllen, with reports of five-inch rain.
Doug Butts, a meteorologist with the weather service, said McAllen received baseball sized hail as a result of the 74-miles-per-hour winds.
On March 30, meteorologists visited parts of McAllen that reported a tornado sighting, but after surveying the area, Butts said there was no evidence of any tornado.
Motorists traveling during the rainstorm were caught by surprise when over four inches of rain flooded streets. Most of the calls the fire department received were from stranded motorists.
Mission Deputy Fire Chief Rene Lopez said they rescued about six motorists. Many were stranded motorists who had walked to safety or found another way out of the water before fire fighters arrived, he said.
One call reported that a motorist had been swept into a drainage canal after seeking shelter underneath an overpass by the Anzalduas International Bridge. Several agencies were reporting the incident, but fire fighters could not locate a car or woman when they searched the area.
Lopez said many motorists thought they had been swept away in rising water but were actually driving off the road and getting stuck in the mud or in the ditches alongside roads.
Lopez, who is also a member of the emergency management team for the county, said he was called to help out in other areas, particularly in McAllen, but stayed in Mission to help at the fire department.
A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter was taking McAllen city officials on a flight to assess damage from the sky in McAllen, said Lopez.
The damage in McAllen was so severe that Mayor Richard Cortez initiated a disaster declaration that allowed over 100 city workers to begin recovery work after the toughest part of the storm had passed.
While the city received 209 calls for reports on flooding, downed power lines and debris, McAllen Fire Chief Roy Rubio said his department received 217 emergency calls. Over 70 percent of those calls were from stranded motorists and people who were trapped in their home. The city also responded to about three structure fires.
There were no reports of injuries, however, city officials said at a news conference last week.
Although some calls reported structures and trees on fire, the fire department had no fires to put out, said Lopez. He added power lines were arcing making residents concerned there was a fire.
Lopez said the fire department was assessing the area to check for downed power lines and trees and any other concerns. A tree was down over a power line in south Mission Friday morning. Workers had to wait for Texas AEP to shut off the electricity before working on removing the tree.
Cpl. Manuel Casas from Mission Police Department said Interim Police Chief Martin Garza started preparing their larger trucks and a military vehicle they use to rescue motorists stranded in standing water.
Extra manpower was called in as well.
Casas said there were at least 18 calls for downed power lines, 30 calls for motorists stranded or flooded streets, and 28 calls about large pieces of debris or fallen trees. The police department barricaded some streets in the area because of high water.
Citizens were helping each other where they could by helping motorists push their vehicles out of the water or helping motorists out of their vehicles in areas where police vehicles
could not assist, said Casas.
Areas of main concern were Shary and 2 Mile Line, Glasscock and Trinity, Stewart and Business, and Taylor and Business 83 streets, Casas said.
Mission police also assisted McAllen with a woman and her vehicle that was swept into a canal on Colbath Road between Taylor and Ware roads, said Casas. The woman was crossing the canal when water swept into it.
Despite the high volume of calls, no injuries have been reported.
“It was devastating,” said Casas. “But we were blessed.”
Other reports consisted of hail damage to cars and windows.
The morning after the storm, several residents found themselves dealing with tree limbs blocking their way out of their driveways.
“The hail and the wind were so forceful that they caused major leaks throughout the inside of our house,” said Diana Ramos, a resident on Village Drive. “We had to move everything out. The ceiling’s falling down. Parts of the roof are in the pool. Trees are uprooted in the backyard and now I can’t go into work because a tree is blocking the road.”
Ramos and her neighbors were stuck at home after a Hackberry tree fell and blocked the neighborhood off from traffic. The neighborhood is near Bannworth Park on Shary Road.
“I can’t get to work, I can’t do anything,” said Scott Rowland. “Our whole neighborhood is stranded here. I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes. This is the worst storm I’ve ever been through.”
Five city workers came to the neighborhood’s aid to remove the tree while neighbors assessed the damage.
Allied Waste, the city’s sanitation service provider, began making a sweep of the area east of Conway Avenue picking up brush, furniture and other debris on Thursday. The company will continue the cleanup until Wednesday, April 11. After this date all remaining brush, furniture and debris will be picked up during the regularly scheduled routes.
Brush, furniture and other debris in the areas west of Conway Avenue will be picked up during the regularly scheduled routes. According to the city’s Website, brush is collected once a month.
Due to the increased trash created by the March 29 storm, Allied Waste is one week behind on their regular routes.
Residents along Ragland Road also experienced bigger trees uprooted from the ground.
“Last night we had the big front tree come down and just barely missed the front door. It’s basically covering the front yard,” said Rudy Salinas. “The back fence has been blown down. But this morning I wake up and I had a beautiful gift. My brother-in-law came to help and a friend shows up just to
help us out. It’s friends and family helping.”
While many residents who reported damage as a result of the storm said they had already begun reaching out to their insurance providers, others have to find other means to repair their damages.
Hector Ruiz, a 73-year-old resident of La Vias Trailer Park on Hoerner Road near Valley Bowl lost a portion of his roof in the 74-mile-per-hour-wind storm.
Ruiz, who has no insurance, stayed in his home throughout the storm despite the damage.
RV parks here, with many of their Winter Texan residents gone back north, also experienced broken windows, as well as damage to skirting, siding and awnings, said Nancy Chatterton, the office manager at Mobile Gardens Community on Glasscock Road, which had 35 reports of damage throughout the park.
Residents said they were in awe of the power of the storm and the amount of damage it had caused in their neighborhoods and homes.
“It was totally unexpected until we glanced out the window and we realized that the lightning was so intense. And then all at once the big drops of rain and in a very quick fashion the wind hit,” said Mary Heaney. “We watched our carport vibrate up and down, up and down and all at once it disappeared. We couldn’t imagine where it went because we didn’t hear anything and we couldn’t see anything of course. It was exciting. For about 35 minutes it was very exciting.”
Progress Times reporter Edwina P. Garza contributed to this story.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.