Tornado Scare: ‘We heard the noise — like a train. A big, loud train.’

Hurricane Hanna spawned a tornado that left behind damages at two different locations in Brownsville when the storm passed through South Texas over the weekend.

A tornado touched down early Sunday morning near the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport, tearing off the roofs of several houses, damaging others, and blowing down trees and power lines.

Officials said the same tornado dipped down in the Southmost area of town, also early Sunday morning.

Damage done to several properties in a rural section of Southmost went mostly unreported until this week. Guadalupe Castillo, who built his house on Del Rio Road 30 years ago, said a phone alert jolted him and his wife from bed at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday morning.

“We couldn’t use the phone, it was locked; we couldn’t call anybody. We just tried to drop down because we heard the noise — like a train. A big, loud train. The house shook. One of the porch beams fell down,” said Castillo at his home on Tuesday.

“My whole life, this is the first tornado that I’ve heard close. We tried to get in the bathroom and dropped on the floor. We were scared. My wife started crying, shaking,” he said.

The tornado easily could have lifted Castillo’s home right off its raised foundation. Instead, the cyclone uprooted trees, burying the roots of one the wind snapped in half deep in the mud of Castillo’s yard.

Several structures were damaged, including a chicken coop, which Castillo said was hit by a flying trampoline. The trampoline still sat upside down at the back of his property on Tuesday. A trailer belonging to his daughter was flipped on its side.

Next door, a swing set purchased for Castillo’s granddaughter sat in pieces. He said the tornado also knocked down a chain link fence along his property, which had been temporarily fixed using metal poles.

According to Brownsville Fire Chief Jarrett Sheldon, the National Weather Service in Brownsville confirmed the touchdown of an EF0 tornado in the area. The fire department received an emergency call at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday regarding a house that lost its roof.

“Witnesses told us there was a possible tornado that touched down in the area. There was damage to some of the buildings near the airport and it looks like the tornado went parallel to N Iowa, tearing the roofs off of some of the houses, damaging roofs, breaking trees, and downing some power lines,” said Sheldon.

“Fortunately, there were no injuries or deaths reported with that tornado. Our truck responded and we went out and did some damage assessment with our drone team, as well.”

The department put those affected in touch with the American Red Cross. Brownsville Police Department and Public Works also responded to help clean up the area. On Tuesday, Sheldon said the department was sending a team out to the Southmost area to assess the reported damage.

As for flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna — the department confirmed there was only one incident in which first responders had to evacuate a resident from a home. Most of the damage across town involved downed power lines and telephone poles, Sheldon said.

Across the street from Castillo’s house, the neighbor’s chain-link fence was knocked to the ground. Behind it stood another neighbor’s semi trailer that flipped 180 degrees during the storm.

Prior to the tornado’s touchdown, it had been parked with its door facing the opposite direction, in front of the fence.

On Tuesday, the trailer stood approximately 20 feet behind the fence, embedded in a towering tree on the neighbor’s property. The branches punched a hole through the trailer’s metal walls.

Back at his home, Castillo showed a section of his home’s porch that had to be nailed down, as the wooden floor was lifted off its foundation. He hopes to repair the porch pole soon out of fear that more inclement weather could literally blow his home off its foundation.

According to an update from Mayor Trey Mendez, residents should call 546-HELP or download the Access Brownsville app to report damage. “Any debris can be placed in the right of way for pick-up by Republic and or Public Works. The city is unable to enter private property,” wrote Mendez.

“If you have homeowner’s insurance and sustained damages, contact them as soon as possible with photos and supporting documentation.”

Mayor Mendez on Sunday issued a disaster declaration, allowing homeowners to access both federal and state resources to help with damage.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com