STORM STORIES — Residents describe sound of tornado amid scattered Port Arthur destruction

Published 3:58 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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Just before a tornado moved over her home and slammed into a local church, Cheryll Albert heard something strange

She described it as a loud whistle.

“It was something I’ve never heard before,” Albert said Wednesday morning, while standing outside her home in the 1700 block of 13th Street in Port Arthur. “It was very scary.”

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She received the weather alerts telling her to take shelter, and she did, as the tornado picked up her home and set it back down.

A vacant lot separates her home from Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, which took the brunt of the damage on the block.

“I feel blessed,” Albert said. “It could have been worse. The Lord spared our lives. I’ve never experienced anything like that, and hope I never do again.”

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On the other side of the church Jake Johnson stood in front of his 13th Street home, watching as crews cleared storm debris.

Johnson said he saw the tornado cross a parking lot before it hit the church roof.

That’s when Johnson hid under his couch for safety.

“It was like a train horn,” he said of the sound. “I’ve never heard anything like it before. It picked my house up and put it down.”

The Port Arthur man pointed out areas of his home’s foundation impacted by the tornado and said he had cracks in his walls and a leaking roof.

A few blocks over at 1949 11th Street, Sheila Ignacio, her mother Bettye Watler and her mother’s tenant, Jose Navarrete, stood in front of the remains of the 11th Street home.

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The tornado moved the home three feet off the pilings and peeled away walls in what looked like an explosion.

They too likened the sound of the tornado to that of a train whistle.

A few doors down on the next block is another piece of property owned by Watler. That home had structural porch damage, among other damage.

The gas station/convenience store at the corner of Woodworth Boulevard and Procter Street was heavily damaged, as well. Crews were busy picking up debris from the roadway and moving hazardous items out of the way.

Nearby in the 2800 block of 5th Street, George Guidry walked around his property surveying damage. It appeared his home lost roofing materials and the front porch had structural damage.

His concern was toward the rear of the property that connects to the gas station. From his back fence he could see a vehicle and a metal trailer, where a home once sat. There wasn’t much left of any type of residence, and Guidry worried about the man who lived there.

The trailer, or dwelling, was in the backside of M&M Furniture Upholsterers, 2831 Procter Street. The building suffered major damage, with several walls pulled down.

Buu Mon Buddhist Temple buildings and grounds also suffered damage.