Tornado rips through Devine29.149387783649143 -98.92961025238037
DEVINE, Texas -- Jack-Jack and Jessi were home alone the night their world literally came crashing down around them. It was only a matter of minutes before the 15-year-old and her Miniature Schnauzer found themselves facing a tornado and the most terrifying moments of their lives.
Jessi's mom, Josie Juarez, had gone to a Bible-study meeting Monday night, but the 15-year-old had decided to stay at home in Devine, along with her 7-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Jack-Jack.
Then the call came in. It was Jessi's dad, warning his daughter about the threat of a tornado. Jesse Juarez said he had just been to see his daughter about an hour earlier to drop off prom money. At the time he had no idea things were about to turn ugly, but then he started listening to the weather channel, and became concerned.
He urged his daughter to call his ex-wife and ask her to come home.
At home, the thunder shook the 4,400-square-foot home along State Hwy. 173N.
"The lights started going on and off. And I'm like terrified of the dark, and I started crying," says Jessi.
"I was 5 miles away. The whole time I stayed on the phone with her," says Josie.
She told her daughter to take shelter in the bathroom. So, Jessi scooped up Jack-Jack and headed down the hall.
There was nothing left
"As soon as we went into the restroom I didn't even get into the shower. I stood right there at the door, just standing up, and then I heard all the windows break," Jessi recalls.
The teen, still visibly fragile, explains what happened next.
"And I was like, just the windows are going to break. Then stuff started piling on me. Then I just looked down. Ten seconds later when I looked up there was no roof. And then I was screaming for help," she says.
On the phone and drawing nearer, Josie tries to calm her Jessi.
"She said, 'Mom, the roof is gone!' And she started screaming. I said, 'Pray, Baby. Pray.'"
Then she lost cell phone service. When Josie arrived about 4 minutes later it was dark and difficult for her to see, much less scramble through the rubble, but she found her daughter in the bathroom - the only room left standing.
"When I got out there was nothing left. It was just all gone," says the teen.
Jessi stands in her front yard next to her mom, facing the house that is no more.
"I didn't even have a scratch," she says.
"God was there. It's crazy. Everything but that one room. That one bathroom. I know He was watching over me," Jessi says.
Most everything is gone. The steel beams of the adjacent workshop landed on the far side of their neighbor's yard. Strips of galvanized aluminum that once made up the horse corral are twisted in tree limbs and flung across several yards. Now, in the backyard a neighbor's blue trailer lies lodged in a heap of debris.
The sound of the tornado was unmistakable
Just two doors down, Al Fohn and his wife, Lois, also suffered losses.
"I've never been so scared in all my life," Al recalls. "I was watching TV, and I came to the back door because I heard some thumping. I don't know if it was hail. And I saw stuff just going across the yard horizontally. This probably sounds crazy: It was like snowballs this big." Al holds out his arms to indicate an object about the size of a giant beach ball.
"It looked like round balls," he says, " I guess it was this tin. Then I saw that pecan tree just disintegrate."
Al says White Foot, the cat, and his dog were outside, but both made it through unharmed.
"I didn't know if the house was gonna leave us or not," he says.
Their roof is a total loss, as are several windows, the ceiling in the kitchen, and they have major electrical damage. But at least they still have walls.
"I'm sad, but I'll be OK," says Lois.
And directly across the street from where the Juarez's house lies in shambles, Sue Geyser's four horses peacefully munch on springtime bouquets.
Sue said they were monitoring the weather on the internet Monday night, and it looked as if it would miss them. But, she and her husband quickly grabbed up her kids and moved to safety when they heard a whirring noise that was unmistakable.
"We were in the closet and our windows were shaking and our pipes were making the gurgling noises," she said.
The Geyser's trailer and boat were hurled to the next pasture. The columns of their front porch were blown clean off and onto the SUV sitting under the carport, though the beams themselves still stand strong. Two of the four vehicles received some damage, but, for the most part, the Geyser's home survived in good condition.
Sue and her husband bought the property only six months ago. They totally gutted the house and had just completed the renovation last month.
Sue wonders how a gust that left the carport mostly unscathed only a few feet away could twist and uprooted a massive pine tree in her own front yard.
All three families, and many others suffered major financial losses when the EF2 tornado touched down in Devine and surrounding areas of Medina County Monday evening. Remarkable individual volunteers have begun to show up in their front yards, offering help, like a San Antonio electrician who watched as Chopper 5 HD hovered overhead showing the destruction. Information on Facebook galvanized him and his brother, a San Antonio firefighter. They grabbed their chainsaws and ladders and introduced themselves to Al Fohn.
"What can they say but, 'No, thanks,'" he says with a smile.
There's not much chance of that.