Severe weather damages coastal area (video)
By BY GHENI PLATENBURG and J.R. ORTEGA - GPLATENBURG@VICAD.COM
May 11, 2012 at 12:11 a.m.
Four men were rescued Friday morning from Matagorda Bay by the U. S. Coast Guard after their boat capsized during Thursday night's storm.
The rescue was one of many incidents related to the storm that brought heavy rain and winds, hail and possibly a tornado or two to the area.
But Waylon Collins, forecaster with the National Weather Service, said no tornadoes touched down.
The weather service survey team went out Friday and determined straight-line winds of about 90 mph caused damage to a mobile home park at 11:46 p.m. about five miles northeast of Seadrift.
About the same time, another straight-line wind of about 60 mph caused damage about 13 miles south of Inez in Victoria County, he said.
Four men were on a 24-feet recreational boat when strong winds pushed the boat up on rocks before overturning the vessel in the water, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Heidi Miller.
A passer-by noticed the boat and called for help.
By 12:30 a.m., the Coast Guard located the men on some nearby Matagorda Bay jetties.
The men, who were wearing life jackets, managed to swim to safety.
The Coast Guard dropped off the men, who were uninjured, near Charles' Bait Shop, 4149 Lane Road in Seadrift, before dispatching two other boats to search for other possible capsized boats, Miller said.
The Coast Guard also closed down barge traffic in the Intracoastal Waterway after learning about a shrimp boat that had come loose during the storm and was drifting in the waterway. The boat's owner was able to retrieve the drifting vessel, said Peter DeForest, Seadrift Volunteer Fire Department fire chief.
Charlie's Bait Shop sustained between $4,000 and $5,000 in damage.
Owner Neal Gray said he lost live bait consisting of shrimp, crickets and mullet when the power went out during the storm.
The office awning and store bathroom were blown away.
Gray, who also rents plots on his five acres to visiting fishermen, said many of the 14 trailers on the property were also damaged.
Larry Jones and his wife, Judy Jones, were in one of the campers on Gray's land when the storm hit.
The Joneses, of Abilene, along with Larry Jones' elderly father and the couple's three small dogs, had camped there since last Sunday for their 46th annual fishing trip to the area.
The couple said unusual tides and winds in previous days as well as a weather report earlier Thursday evening led them to think that some kind of bad weather was on the way, but even still, they were not prepared for what happened later that night.
Strong winds picked up the front end of the trailer about four feet in the air for several minutes before abruptly dropping it to the ground.
In addition to a cracked hull on their boat, their truck jackknifed into an adjacent trailer.
"It sounded like a freight train," said Larry Jones, as he took a quick smoke break before he and his family got on the road and headed back home. "I think those jacks saved us from turning over. We're lucky compared to the other people around us," he said.
When asked whether the harsh weather would stop them from coming back to the area next year, Larry Jones replied, "No way. Nothing is going to stop me from red fishing."
John Welder, owner of Sea-Dan Ranches in Seadrift, said at least five travel trailers and mobile homes on his land were damaged during the storm.
Seadrift Volunteer Firefighters, assisted by Port O'Connor firefighters and Calhoun County Sheriff's Office deputies, searched the damaged structures while American Red Cross emergency response vehicles drove around dispensing bottled water to storm victims.
Crops and barn damage
It started with a roar - and ended with damage throughout part of the Wood Hi community.
Edward Jurica stepped out of his home on Shiller Road Friday morning to find the sweet corn crop around his home flattened and his barn shredded throughout the yard, with the roof nearly a quarter of a mile down.
"It sounded like a mild roar," he said, walking around splintered wood scattered throughout the field. "I couldn't describe it, because I've never heard it before."
Jurica was not sure what to think of what he saw Friday morning.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "Then it dawned on me, that's what all that noise was."
He felt the damage could be from a tornado, because of split wood and the distance the debris went. Because he didn't see it, it may have just been a strong gust of wind, known as a straight-line wind.
The barn was about 20 years old and shards of tin and wood were everywhere. Another one of his tin barns, built in the 1940s, was intact.
About half a mile down the road, the Walthalls spent much of their morning and early afternoon cleaning up tree limbs.
The winds tore off a barn roof and threw it several hundred feet into a pasture.
Tamy Walthall and her husband were already in bed in their mobile home when the storm hit.
"The wind sounded real weird," she said. "The house started shaking, and it felt like it lifted a little."
Walthall's mother-in-law, Ann Walthall, who lives next door, heard the storm come through. She heard nothing that indicated a tornado, other than some hail, rain and strong wind.
She awoke to damage. Her driveway was blocked by tree limbs and other debris. She was not able to leave until they had someone clear a path.