Carlos Ortiz was at Texas A&M University-Kingsville to attend a sporting event with his young son Thursday evening when it was canceled because of an impending storm. Before going home, Ortiz stopped by his business, the Acme Radiator and Muffler Shop at 920 N. 14th St., when it started to hail.
“So I told my son we should park (in the shop’s garage) so we could just wait it out,” he said.
Minutes later, Ortiz said the wind started picking up speed and began blowing through open gaps in the garage “like a funnel.”
“To me, it felt like a tornado,” he said. “It sounded like a freight train, so I grabbed my son and we took cover in front of the truck.”
The winds continued, Ortiz said, eventually becoming intense enough to pull off the garage’s south wall.
“(The wind) took it all,” he said. “My dad built this whole building in 1963, and this is the first time anything like this has happened. The storm caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting anything like this.”
Even with one wall missing, Ortiz said the storm did not keep him from opening the shop the following day.
“I never lost power,” he said. “So I’ve been here since 6 a.m. working. Just like my dad taught me, it’s business as usual no matter what. Things happened, but you need to keep going.”
Ortiz was just one of the thousands of Kingsville area residents and business owners affected by last Thursday’s severe thunderstorm that brought a downburst of straight line winds measured at 80 to 90 miles per hour through the heart of the city.
According to a damage assessment from National Weather Service Corpus Christi, the storm caused damage to at least 15 structures in the path of the storm and knocked out power to nearly 9,600 residents at its peak.
Val Stinson was driving back home from Beeville last Thursday when the storm hit Kingsville. He said he was surprised when he saw the damage as he entered town just after 8 p.m.
“On the way back, it rained hard for maybe 10 minutes,” he said. “But I thought it was just rainstorms (around the area) because I saw nothing but rainbows the whole way home. But when I got to town, I could tell it was a tornado or something because there were a ton of trees split in half.”
While Stinson’s property sustained minimal damage during the storm, he said he was worried about his neighbors.
“You can see some of them lost fences, and the limbs landed on cars,” he said. “The good thing is I didn’t see any damage to houses.”
Pam Trant and her husband, Donny, were inside their home on University Boulevard when the storm entered Kingsville. Pam Trant, who said she has lived in Kingsville for more than 50 years, said the storm brought “the hardest rain and wind we’ve seen.”
“We thought (the storm) was going to pass us,” she said. “But it rained hard and the wind was swirling for about 30 minutes. I’ve never seen it get like that before. I mean, we’ve had rain but not like that.”
Pam said she had no idea of the extent of the damage until the next morning “when we saw the trees down and a big mess on the driveway and all down the boulevard.”
With no electricity, Pam said clearing the brush from their property was difficult for her and her husband. Thankfully, she said, volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of Kingsville arrived later in the morning to help them out.
“They cut up the big, heavy limbs from the tree that we couldn’t pick up,” she said. “They were a big help and we were very thankful for them.”
John Perez, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Kingsville, said after Thursday’s storm forced the organization to close the clubhouse on Friday, he and his staff volunteered to help residents with brush cleanup.
“We couldn’t be open for the kids, but we saw the community needed our help,” Perez said.
BGCK volunteers traveled around town all day Friday and Saturday, as well as Monday afternoon, to help with the cleanup effort, and were also joined by other volunteers and organizations.
“Everybody was just coming together, and that was awesome,” he said. “The demand was so high, that we couldn’t help everybody who asked, but we stopped and helped as many as we could.”
Recovery and cleanup efforts from last Thursday’s storm are still underway, with the City of Kingsville reporting more than 900 tons of brush picked up as of Monday afternoon.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.