MERCEDES — A family who lives on the outskirts of town has been left homeless after a powerful thunderstorm ripped the roof off their trailer home early Wednesday morning. The storm and its winds were so powerful, the family feared they would die before it was over.
“Estábamos pensándo que esto ya iba terminar — no contar esto que estamos contando ahorita ,” said Ramiro Salinas.
“We were thinking that we were going to end — that we wouldn’t be retelling the story we’re telling now,” Salinas, a father of five said Thursday afternoon.
“My wife was shouting and shouting, crying and crying. … We thought we were going to die there because the storm was so strong and there weren’t any houses on either side. There was nothing,” Salinas continued, in Spanish.
Salinas, 54, and his wife, Sylvia Soriano, 47, had only recently moved to the plot of land just off of Mile 12 1/2 North Road on the outskirts of Mercedes when the storm struck in the overnight hours between Tuesday and Wednesday.
The family had recently overcome some economic hardships and had spent the last year saving to buy the trailer home and piece of land. They moved in two months ago, parking their cheery green mobile home in a largely undeveloped neighborhood.
A wide paved avenue with storm drains stretches across the neighborhood, which is sparsely dotted with a handful of homes — some built, others mobile homes, like the Salinas family’s. When the winds began to pick up late Tuesday night, there were no obstacles in its way to serve as windbreaks.
But the family hadn’t expected the storm to be so bad.
Sylvia said she had watched the news and seen rain was coming, but turned the broadcast off before she heard weather forecasters mention the potential for strong winds.
She, her husband, and their five kids settled in for the night. She was more worried about the potential for flooding in their new neighborhood, since they had never seen how the land responds to rain.
“This is the first time this has happened to us,” Sylvia said in Spanish while standing outside her wrecked home Thursday.
“We didn’t know how to prevent this… We’ve always seen this from the other side — seen this happen to other people. We never stopped to think that this could happen to us, too,” she said.
Sylvia said things started to get bad around 1 a.m., when the lightning and thunder woke her up. She went to check on her children as the trailer began to shake.
“All of a sudden, we just heard a thunderclap and that’s when the roof lifted up. In just that short moment, it lifted the roof,” Sylvia said.
“We were so scared. And I was yelling because I was scared and I didn’t know what to do or where to hide. We didn’t know where to hide,” she said.
Her husband, Ramiro, said he thought a tornado had struck the house, because moments before the wind tore the aluminum roof off the trailer, he could feel the air pressure rapidly changing as the wind battered the home.
“My wife wanted to hide in the bathroom, but there was nothing there. It no longer had a roof either,” Ramiro said.
“The only thing that occurred to me was to ask God to take care of my children, to take care of my whole family because, at that moment, we were so scared,” Ramiro said.
Ramiro’s daughter, Jasmine, recounted the moment the roof was ripped away.
“I was just hearing the whole noise. And I did get scared ‘cause it was really loud. When I looked up, the roof just went flying,” Jasmine, 15, said.
She awoke her twin sister, Jackelyn, and they ran to their parents’ room to try to take shelter. The younger children hid in a closet that still had a door, while the older kids and their parents huddled beneath mattresses.
After about 20 minutes of terror, with the rain pouring down on them and the wind continuing to lash the ruined home, Ramiro told his family to take shelter in their pickup truck.
All five children, ranging in age from 15 to 23, squeezed inside the vehicle, along with Ramiro and Sylvia.
Sylvia lamented the loss of the trailer so soon after the family had finally begun to get back on their feet.
“We were barely recovering… But God knows why He does what He does. He knows, and He tests us,” Sylvia said.
“But He listens. He always listens to our prayers,” she said.
Indeed, Ramiro said he knows God was watching over his family throughout the tempest.
“God was with us,” Ramiro said.
The following morning, the family got their first clear look at the damage.
The mangled aluminum roof lay in a heap about 30 yards away from the home. The inside of the structure was filled with soggy detritus — insulation, broken wood paneling and other wreckage.
The family set to work cleaning up. They placed a blue tarp over the top of the trailer, and began to clear out the debris. Three of the family’s Bibles sat atop the rubble pile, their pages open to the sun to dry out.
Young Jasmine described what she felt when she saw her home in the light of day.
“My parents did everything with effort and just everything got destroyed,” she said.
On Thursday afternoon, Sylvia and some of her kids were still busily cleaning up. The sound of a laundry machine filled the air, as a washer and dryer — now sitting outside — were busy cleaning the family’s drenched clothing.
Ramiro and his eldest son, meanwhile, were away at a construction job trying to earn money for repairs.
Ramiro said he has taught all his children how to work. His sons help him on construction jobs. His twin daughters know how to paint. If they can get help with materials, he plans on reconstructing the trailer himself.
“We just ask for the people’s help to be able to fix our house. To be able to be with my family once again in our home,” Ramiro said.
“We will do the work. We just need help to buy the materials,” he said.
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for materials. Donations can be made at https://gofund.me/c329f0b5.
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