Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Vidor couple loses house in Beryl when tree falls

The old adage "We dodged a bullet" was heard across Orange County Tuesday morning after Hurricane Beryl, but not everyone was so lucky.

The county was on the far western side of the storm, which came ashore near Matagorda, south of Galveston.

"We're very lucky that storm went where it did," County Judge John Gothia said.

Though the sustained winds here did not reach tropical storm force, they were strong enough to knock down numerous trees and limbs.

An older couple raising their grandchildren in Vidor had their house destroyed when a tree fell on it during the Monday storm. Precinct 4 County Commissioner Robert Viator said the couple also lost one or two of their cars. And they don't have insurance.

Orange County Emergency Management Director Joel Ardoin said Tuesday morning the Vidor house was the only residence reported with severe damage, with "several others having minor damage."

Anyone with damage from the storm should report their damage to the Orange County Emergency Management Office so it can be recorded to add to the total for possible FEMA assistance.

Low-level flooding was reported from storm surge in the Bridge City area, Ardoin said. At one time during the storm, the electric company Entergy reported 8,600 outages across the county, with about 3,896 still without power Tuesday morning, he said. The company was expecting all of the service in the county to be restored by Tuesday evening.

County Judge Gothia said he issued a disaster declaration for the county before the storm hit. The declaration was "primarily for precaution," he said.

The local declaration is needed, along with a state declaration, to qualify for aid from the federal government, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Acting Texas Governor Dan Patrick added Orange County to the list of the counties on the state's Beryl disaster declaration.

FEMA will determine whether the areas Beryl hit qualify for federal help based on the amount of damage reported. That is one reason Orange County is asking for people to report storm-related damages. The Houston-Galveston area is expected to tally enough damage to qualify all Texas counties listed on the disaster declaration.

Commissioner Viator said the Vidor couple who lost their house and cars may be able to get some help if FEMA is approved.

Beryl became the second named storm of the 2024 hurricane season, which started on June 1 and runs through November 30. It made history as the earliest forming Atlantic storm to reach the top Category 5 intensity. After hitting part of Mexico, it dropped down to a tropical storm category.

As the storm went into the Gulf of Mexico late last week, people along the Texas coast were on edge with anticipation. Early predictions had Beryl coming ashore near the Brownsville-Corpus Christi area, but it began slowly going west.

Sunday evening, the National Hurricane Center added Orange County to the area under a tropical storm warning as the outer western bands of the storm were becoming in range.

Tropical storms need sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph, with the minimum Category 1 hurricane sustained winds at 74 mph. Gusts in any tropical storm or hurricane may be stronger than the sustained winds.

The National Weather Service gauges at the Orange County Airport between Orange and Bridge City recorded periods of sustained winds of 23-26 mph, plus many gusts of 30-plus mph and some gusts up to 40 mph.

The storm winds began blowing about midnight and grew stronger about 4 a.m. They kept blowing until about 7 p.m.

At one point, part of western Orange County was placed under a tornado warning, while the rest of the county was under a tornado watch as tropical storm winds can produce twisters. A tornado developed in Jasper and caused damage.

Orange County Judge Gothia said most of the reported damage here came from trees and tree limbs falling. He said the grounds have been saturated because of the rain this year, which caused some trees to blow over by their roots.

The summer of 2023 had record-breaking heat and a long drought, leading to many trees dying. Gothia said if the winds here had been stronger, many more trees would have been blown down.

The city of Orange Monday closed the Boat Ramp area off Simmons Drive because the storm surge had covered the launches along with part of the fishing pier. Gauges at the area show the Sabine River there went slightly above the flood stage level of four feet above sea level during the storm, but was down to 1.5 feet by Monday morning.

The gauge on Cow Bayou at the Highway 87 bridge in Bridge City showed the bayou went up two feet during the storm, but went down as the surge and winds ended.


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