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Storm blows roof off apartment (video)

By ALLISON MILES
June 7, 2012 at 1:07 a.m.
Updated June 8, 2012 at 1:08 a.m.

Leo Gutierrez, a second-floor tenant of an apartment complex managed by Barnwell Properties at the 900 block of Simpson Street, points out the caved-in roof in his living room.

A look at the forecast:

A look at the forecast:• Friday carries a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and a high temperature near 92. North northeast winds will blow between 5 and 9 mph.

• Friday night brings a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, with a low temperature around 70. Northeast wind will blow between 3 and 7 mph.

• Saturday will bring a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and a high temperature near 96. East northeast wind will blow between 3 and 7 mph.

Source: National Weather Service website

Leo Gutierrez's shoes squished as he walked across his living room carpet, wiping raindrops from his forehead and examining the damage.

Insulation and drywall piled onto the floor, while exposed wooden beams sat up above.

"That's where we sit to watch TV," he said, shaking his head. "We could have been hurt. This is some serious damage. Serious damage."

Thursday night's storm that slammed Victoria with strong winds and heavy rain also ripped the roof off a Barnwell Properties apartment complex in the 900 block of Simpson Street.

Victoria saw .57 of an inch of rain that began falling at 6 p.m., said Tawnya Evans, a forecaster with the National Weather Service's Corpus Christi office. The brunt of the storm came between 7 and 8 p.m.

Wind gusts reached 33 mph at the Victoria Regional Airport, she added, but the office did not receive reports of hail or twisters in the area.

Advocate readers reported pea- to grape-size hail in the northern part of Victoria.

Sara Mincey, a downstairs resident at the apartment complex, said all she heard was a loud "whoosh" as the roof made its exit.

"We thought it was the other building's roof," she said, pointing across the complex. "We didn't know what was happening. It was scary."

Mincey was in a back bedroom with her three children, at the time, she said, enjoying her only day off from work this week.

"What a day off," she said with a smirk as water pooled on her kitchen floor.

As residents hurried to protect their belongings, property owner Robert Barnwell worked out the logistics. After all, a lost roof means misplaced tenants.

"We're trying to find places for people to stay," he said in between discussions with roofing contractors and management. "I've owned this complex 10 years. Maybe 15. And I've never seen this happen."

Barnwell kept cool under pressure, even while dealing with upset tenants.

"I was a firefighter for 30 years," he explained with a smile. "I'm used to it."

Simpson Street residents weren't the only ones who were kept busy Thursday. Emergency personnel had their hands full, too.

Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray said he attended to multiple calls throughout the evening, one of the more serious being a power outage in Bloomington. Electrical lines fell onto train tracks, he said, and the train tried to make its way through.

Meanwhile, other signs of the storm included a downed street sign at the corner of Larkspur Street and Parkstone Drive, and traffic lights out at the intersection of Navarro and Rio Grande streets.

Although no one directed traffic at the dark intersection, road flares signaled a warning that something was wrong.

As for Gutierrez, he said his main concern Thursday was protecting his electronics and other valuables to avoid further damage. He and his roommates were away from the apartment at the time of the collapse, he said, and luckily avoided injury.

And, while the cleanup might be an inconvenience, he said others had it worse.

His next-door neighbor, for instance, had young children to worry about.

"We're grown adults," he said. "We're three men that stay here. But when you have children next door and the whole roof is caved in, where are they going to sleep?"

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