As the small Texas town of Laguna Heights was picking up the pieces Sunday from the devastation caused by a tornado that touched down Saturday, killing one person and injuring multiple others, an ABC News crew sprang into action and rescued a dog trapped underneath a damaged home.
When the ABC News crew was setting up equipment around dawn Sunday amidst a heavily damaged neighborhood in the Rio Grande Valley town 24 miles east of Brownsville, two members of its security detail heard the cries of the animal coming from under a home.
The crew called animal control, but instead of waiting for officers to respond, ABC News sound technician Jim Gower found a shovel nearby and started digging.
Within minutes, Gower had dug a hole large enough for the scared dog to stick its head out from under the home’s foundation, but hesitated to come out all the way.
As Gower attempted to calm the dog by petting it around the chin and ears, someone handed him a Slim Jim meat stick, asking, “Think that will work?”
After Gower fed the dog the tasty treat, the canine was coaxed from under the house and out of harm’s way.
A preliminary damage assessment indicates that an EF1 tornado touched down in Laguna Heights at 4 a.m. Saturday, ripping through neighborhoods with wind speeds of 86 to 105 m.p.h., possibly topping out at 110 m.p.h., according to the National Weather Service.
The twister left a wide swath of damage, including destroying numerous homes and other structures, and splintering wooden power poles.
One person, identified by his family as Robert Flores, was killed when a trailer house lifted off the ground landed on his home, Flores’ sister, Violeta Flores-Tovar, told ABC News.
“He was a loved brother, a recent father to his son Christopher Flores. He will be missed by many family, and friends,” Flores-Tovar said in a statement.
Louis Villareal, told ABC News Flores was his cousin, saying, “he’s in heaven.”
At least 11 people were hospitalized with injuries after the Saturday storm, officials said.
A disaster declaration was issued for the area on Saturday as a gas leak was repaired and some power was restored to residents, according to Cameron County officials.
Eddie Treviño, Jr., a Cameron County judge, told ABC News the twister struck unexpectedly as most people were asleep in their homes Saturday morning.
“We’re seeing some utter devastation for a community that had no warning whatsoever,” Treviño said.
Laguna Heights resident Christopher Vasquez described the moment the funnel cloud hit as sounding like a “nuclear bomb.”
“My whole window caved in and it picked me up off the bed and threw me into the wall,” Vasquez told ABC News.
A tornado also touched down in the neighboring town of Port Isabel, where police confirmed there were injuries on the ground and that multiple structures had been destroyed.
The twisters were among 50 reported this weekend that ripped across Texas and the Midwest from Oklahoma to Nebraska.