SWEENY — Niecy Randon crawled into the bathtub Tuesday morning ready to relax after a long night of work.
Just as she got comfortable, the mother of three heard a thunderous noise outside, which seemed to be getting louder, she said.
“I heard something like a train right outside of my house,” she said. “It was loud, and I just started praying immediately.”
Reports of a possible tornado touching down started coming in to the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office about 9 a.m. Tuesday, Lt. Varon Snelgrove said.
“In the Van Vleck area in Matagorda County, they got hit really hard,” he said. “I have seen photographs of homes completely leveled there and trailer homes turned upside down, not recreational vehicles.”
Most of the damage in Brazoria County occurred about 10 miles from the county line close to Randon’s rental house in the 9000 block of FM 524 near CR 321 northwest of Sweeny, Snelgrove said.
The high winds damaged the roofs of several homes, in addition to knocking over trees and flipping at least recreational vehicle, he said.
“We got lucky because had this happened in the middle of the night, we probably would have had some injuries or fatalities,” Snelgrove said. “It looks like it tracked south down CR 332 or Ashley Wilson Road and just barely missed Sweeny High School.”
Sweeny ISD had issued a shelter in place for all its students and campuses Tuesday morning, interim superintendent Gerald Nixon said. Other Brazoria County school districts reported doing the same.
Although there were no known storm-related injuries in the county, Snelgrove said several areas received at least some damage, including a portion of CR 348 in Wild Peach and some downed trees near FM 521 and CR 44 near Angleton.
“We dodged a bullet,” he said. “We had some damage, but no injuries or lives lost.”
Randon, whose air conditioner unit was thrown from the house and some of its siding removed, expressed her gratitude the damage wasn’t more severe.
“I just thank God that I am alive, and that whoever did the trailer got it right,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish going through that on my worst enemy.”
Next door to Randon, Cody Shaw was trying to stay optimistic as he surveyed the damage done to his property.
“It took the tops of trees off around here and the metal roofing — or what I call a thermal roof — off the house, but it didn’t hurt the house, thank goodness,” he said.
After hearing about tornado might have been responsible, Shaw, who was at work near Danbury, confessed his first thought necessarily wasn’t about his house, he said.
“I got classic cars and I was worried about those,” he said. “I had one up front that had the car cover blown off, and that’s a $40,000 Camaro. Luckily, no damage to it, and I found the car cover two doors down in the backyard.”
Kali Crober, another neighbor, went to stay with family during the storm, she said.
“When I came back, it was lots of damage, but nothing to our house,” she said. “I am just glad I wasn’t home.”
Her brother-in-law, Nicholas Crober, already was busy cutting tree limbs to keep them from falling onto a parked car or the house, she said.
“He is awesome,” she said. “We are very fortunate.”
Shaw also considered himself pretty lucky, all things considered, he said.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “It could have been in the middle of the night, and we could not have a home to go home to. We can always fix things, so I would call it a blessing.”
The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down just outside Sweeny at about 8:45 a.m., meteorologist Patrick Blood said.
Winds reached 47 mph at Surfside Beach and 67 mph at the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge on CR 306 in Brazoria, Blood said, although Refuge Manager Curtis Jones said there were no reports of damage.
“The whole area saw strong winds as the front moved through,” he said. “But there was no damage here.”
A Cessna 150 flipped upside down after 55 mph winds whipped through the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport and snapped the tiedowns binding its wings, Aviation Director Jeff Bilyeu said.
The plane typically needs a minimum of 48 mph winds to take flight, Bilyeu said.
“It pretty much stayed in place, it just flipped over,” Bilyeu said. “The wind was strong enough to break both tiedowns on the wings. These planes are made to fly, so winds are going to have an impact on them.”
Airport officials will work with the plane’s owner to remove the aircraft, which sustained significant damage to its propeller and tail, Bilyeu said.
“We’ll work with the tenant to have the plane removed,” he said.
The winds swept more seasonal temperatures into Brazoria County, with lows of 42 degrees expected tonight, according to the National Weather Service.