Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick signs disaster declaration following Port Arthur tornado

Published 10:30 am Monday, April 15, 2024

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Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick signed a declaration of disaster Monday morning because of the imminent threat of suffering widespread or severe damage, injury or loss of life or property resulting from tornado damages and conditions.

Branick determined extraordinary measure must be taken and continued to alleviate the differing of the people impacted and to protect or rehabilitate property and that is necessary to issue this Declaration of Disaster.

Branick said the county would request Gov. Greg Abbott issue a Declaration of Disaster.

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Officials with Port Arthur’s Emergency Management team are still working to find out how many structures were damaged during Wednesday’s tornado.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jermey Houston said as of Thursday only nine residents submitted damage information, though the number is likely higher than that.

The EF-2 rated tornado hit a part of the city from 5:55 to 5:59 a.m. Wednesday, according to a report from the National Weather Service Lake Charles. Peak winds are estimated to have been 120 mph.

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

The twister had a max width of 300 yards and traveled a path of 2.71 miles.

A total of seven tornadoes — one of which hit Port Arthur — came from Wednesday’s severe weather, Meteorologist Donald Jones with the NWS, said on a social media post.

Other confirmed tornadoes hit Lake Charles (EF-2), two in Cameron Parish (EF-1), one near Thistlewaite in Louisiana (EF-1), one along Highway 103 (EF-1) and one just outside Church Point (EF-1).

Weather surveys are ongoing.

Following the destruction, Empowerment Church in Port Arthur opened its doors as a shelter, and the American Red Cross set up a site there.

Vanessa Valdez, communications manager with the Red Cross, said 12 individuals stayed the night at the shelter.

Valdez said Port Arthur residents impacted by the tornado can still seek assistance at the site, 3600 Memorial Blvd.

Workers may be able to connect residents with the county or city assistance they need.

Residents can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS or 1-800-733-2767.

Since the damage was not as widespread as the area has seen in other natural disasters, it is unlikely FEMA is going to step in to help, Houston said.

Empowerment Church, 3600 Memorial Blvd., is a shelter site for those affected by Wednesday’s tornado. (Mary Meaux/The News)

The reason FEMA won’t become involved is the damage does not meet the dollar amount threshold in order to receive any type of reimbursement.

But, Houston said, Red Cross and other volunteer organizations are available and have been assisting residents.

For the most part, those impacted have insurance and are or will be contacting their insurance companies, Houston said.

As for the response, Houston said it was good.

“I think our staff did a very good job moving debris and getting things up and running,” he said. “Basically we are on the road to recovery.”

Constable Christopher Bates took to social media to warn residents with downed trees in their yard or on their homes to contact

Texans On Mission is a Christian ministry that assists after a disaster.

Bates said he is worried of people driving around town offering services and possibly taking advantage of the elderly community by quoting them thousands of dollars for tree removal.

To submit damage information to the city

Residents of Port Arthur who received damage are asked to email a photo of the damage along with address and contact information to

You may also provide this information via phone by calling 409-983-8139 or 409-983-8133. Please leave a message regarding the address, estimated damage and contact information.