It only took about five minutes for an early morning tornado to destroy homes and infrastructure in the Laguna Heights neighborhood on Saturday, May 13. The weather event, a rare sight in Deep South Texas, reached wind speeds of 105 miles per hour and flattened at least six mobile homes, according to the National Weather Service, killing one person, injuring 11 others and leaving dozens of local residents homeless or displaced.
In hopes of providing some relief to impacted families in the Laguna Heights community, emergency medical providers affiliated with South Texas Health System’s acute care facilities have donated $5,000 to the Point Isabel Independent School District and $2,000 to a family who lost their home in the weather event. The school district will use the funds to help the Laguna Heights families of those students who were displaced or left homeless by the tornado.
Seeing the Impact of Natural Disasters Firsthand
The emergency medicine physicians and advanced practice providers with South Texas Health System’s acute care facility emergency departments at STHS McAllen, STHS Edinburg, STHS Children’s and STHS Heart – consisting of approximately 45 healthcare providers of Emergency Medicine Acute Care — have seen firsthand the impact of natural disasters on communities in their day-to-day work.
“Being emergency physicians and clinicians, we are on the front lines of treating patients when they come in and are impacted by disasters, but there’s a big social aspect to that as well,” said Dr. Adam Benzing. “It’s not just about injuries and medical care, it’s also about the downstream effects of people not having a home or being displaced, so this is our way of helping support that social aspect.
“Disasters happen on a community scale, so it’s multiple emergencies impacting multiple people all at the same time and having an impact on the social fabric,” Benzing added. “In the immediate aftermath of a disaster or tragedy that hits a community, you see a period of time when that community pulls together — people helping people — and this is just an extension of that.”
Their House Was Destroyed
As the tornado traveled through the neighborhood at 4 a.m. that morning, Sandra Troncoso, her husband and their two children — a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl — found themselves huddled together in their shower. By the time it had dispersed, the house she has lived in her entire life, passed down by the grandmother who raised her, was destroyed. Their home was flooded, ruining their beds, furniture and other belongings.
“Our roof is gone, and our house shifted because of the wind, so we’re pretty much just trying to get back on our feet and rebuild,” Troncoso said. “God willing, with everybody that has been so kind to us and all the donations that we’ve received, we can. We’re just so overwhelmed by all the support that we’ve received.”
Point Isabel ISD Superintendent Theresa Ann Capistran offered her sincere appreciation to the group of emergency medicine physicians for their efforts to help the families who suddenly found themselves in great need of assistance. "Our Tarpon community has experienced devastating loss these past couple of weeks,” Capistran said. “This generous donation by these physicians with South Texas Health System will greatly assist our students and their families through this recovery process."
"Some of these families lost literally everything they had,” Capistran added. “Thank you so much to the doctors for opening up your hearts to our Tarpon Community."
Get more information on the ongoing relief efforts through the Point Isabel school district →