South Prince community hit hard

Richard McDonald, left, and Michael Bell examine a two-by-four that was driven through their living room wall Friday night by tornado winds. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

The steady sound of crunching glass under her feet, Tina Rolan walked through her home. Pointing to things in passing, she focused on items that survived the tornado that ravaged her south Clovis neighborhood Friday night.

Passing shattered windows and mud-splattered walls, she fixated on a jigsaw puzzle she’d been working on, noting it remained untouched by winds that mangled her mini-blinds, twisted her chandelier from the ceiling, and drove a board through the living room wall behind her couch.

The Rolans’ home is on Louisiana Street. Officials said the neighborhood, predominantly mobile homes located south of US 60/84, was the hardest hit in Curry County.

“You have to laugh,” she said with a weak chuckle. “This is beautiful compared to some of the others (in the area).”

She said her family was not in the house when the twister struck.

Just to the west on Alabama Street, John Moreno said his family left when they heard the alerts Friday night.

“Oh, we bounced,” he said laughing.

Without power, Moreno said they were pleased to find their home intact, though they discovered the neighbor’s trampoline hanging twisted in the branches of a tree in the front yard.

A street away, Mindy Smith said she and her children sought refuge at the home of her grandmother, Jackie Garduro.

As she rounded the corner, Smith said she drove into the tornado.

“We were on two wheels, I know we were,” she said, watching her children play in the front yard. “We’re just lucky to be alive. I know God was with us.”

Garduro said one of her goats was killed. Standing amidst damaged lawn decorations and a debris-covered yard, she said she felt lucky.

Luis Sotelo, who lives a block from Garduro, was also counting himself fortunate. His house sustained broken windows but was still standing. Homes on either side of his were razed.

Sotelo said he doesn’t carry insurance on his single-wide, aged mobile home.

“They told us it was too old,” he said. “We just let the insurance go.”

Like Sotelo, Michael Lucero carried no insurance on two mobile homes he owned on Mississippi Street.

“If you don’t have money, how are you going to buy insurance? We can barely make enough to pay bills,” Lucero said. Viewing a crumpled mass of metal and insulation that used to be his home, Lucero said he doesn’t know what will come next for his family.

“We have nothing left,” he said.

Pointing at the rubble, he said his family hid in a neighbor’s garage during the tornado.

“We just would have been killed (if they’d stayed in the mobile home),” he said.

Jackie and Jeanine Miller were on their living room floor during the storm. Feeling blessed to have only lost a few windows, the Millers said they gathered with neighbors when it was over.

“I still think it was the fate of God. We all kneeled on the floor and prayed and thanked God for safety and protection,” Jackie Miller said.

A transplant from Liberal, Kan., Miller said they have weathered many tornadoes but this was probably the worst.

“I was tickled to death we didn’t leave the house when they told us to,” the retired police officer said, explaining he believes they might have been killed by flying debris.

Miller’s mobile home has a concrete foundation and brick outer layer. He said he had his home customized when he purchased it more than two years ago — just in case a day like Friday came around.

“It went right over the top of us,” he said. “It did not shake whatsoever.”