David Kuni was just getting home from work when the tornado hit.
Kuni, a resident of the Tradewinds Apartments, was hit by the forceful wind as he was trying to get out of his truck, he said. He could barely get out of the truck and then tried to scramble to his apartment, he said.
He made it only a few feet before he was holding on for dear life, he said.
“It just took me off my feet,” Kuni said. “I grabbed on to a fence, and I held onto that sonofabitch until my feet came down. It happened in like 10 seconds. I’m a big ol’ fat boy. I’m 250. If I wasn’t holding onto that fence, I would have been gone.”
An F1 tornado, with winds estimated up to 110 mph, struck the apartment complex, 1919 13th Ave. N., and a nearby mini-mart Wednesday evening.
No one was injured by the twister, which touched down just after 6 p.m. as a line of strong winter storms was passing through Galveston County.
The storms left lasting damage in other ways.
On Thursday morning, city officials announced that all 129 units at the Tradewinds would have to be evacuated until engineers and building inspectors could confirm that all of the buildings were structurally sound.
Herman Meyers, Texas City’s building official, said a group of engineers was going through the complex Thursday to check for electrical, plumbing and structural damage. There was some fear that some of the buildings, even the ones that didn’t look more severely damaged, could have been destabilized.
“We thought it was necessary to make them uninhabitable,” Meyers said. “At this point, it’s precautionary.”
The damage to some of the buildings in the area was obvious. The roof was peeled off of the complex’s community center. The roof of the Grab ‘N Go convenience store fell in completely, and a wall was left torn open by the tornado. The store’s owner said the building was a complete loss but that the one employee who was inside at the time got out safely.
It was unclear how many people were displaced by the order, but city officials said they assumed there were four people living in each unit.
For some residents of the complex, the damage means even more disruption during a time when so many things are upended
Standing in the parking lot behind the complex, Jameisha Justice said she had just recovered from COVID-19 and had been preparing to start a new job and now had to figure out where to move her family, at least temporarily.
Justice spent the night at her cousin’s house in League City and returned to the complex Thursday to attempt to retrieve her son’s asthma medication.
“I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” Justice said. “I don’t know if it’s even going to be safe to stay here or if they’re going to move us.”
City officials said they were using every available resource to provide help to the apartment complex’s residents. The Red Cross, the United Way and The Salvation Army were all helping to provide food, shelter and clothing to the residents.
One United Way official called the event the largest mobilization of resources in Texas City since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
It was unclear how long it would take for buildings to be assessed and deemed safe. Until then, residents would have to find other places to stay.