LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – December 23, 2009 is a date forever etched in the minds of Lufkin residents. That's the day an E-F-3 tornado ripped through town wiping out almost everything in its path, yet miraculously causing no deaths.
The storm first rattled patrons in the parking lot of Olive Garden. Customers said the tornado touched down and within seconds lifted back up causing no injuries or major destruction, however, it did knock out power in the area and downed trees.
An area on the east side of Lufkin known as Lufkin Land felt the brunt of the storm. Houses were destroyed, the newly tiled Lufkin V-F-W building crumbled, roofs were ripped from apartment buildings and businesses, trees, debris and snapped power lines were everywhere, but again, no life lost.
At the time tornado victim Edna Coutee remembered hearing a loud roaring noise. "At night, sometimes I hear that noise and I get worried it's that tornado. The sound of that tornado when it was coming through and it sounds like it's going to come back again and I really get nervous about it, but I hope and pray to God that we don't have many more because that was one scary night, one scary night," Coutee said in a 2009 interview.
Another tornado victim, Luis Estrado, spent his day Christmas vacation happy to be alive and helping his father clean up the mess. "I was going to sleep and then all of the sudden the lights were turned out and then the house just started shaking and two of the mirrors broke," Estrado said in an interview just days after the storm.
Estrada's neighbor, Javier Ortega, his daughter and then-pregnant wife rode out the storm huddled in the bathtub of their restroom.
East Texas News-9's Whitney Grunder revisited the tornado stricken neighborhood and tonight on KTRE's East Texas News she'll have an update on their recovery and share their memories.