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Orangefield family working to rebuild their dream home after it was damaged by EF-2 tornado

The Smith's are grateful to have insurance, but it's complicated. The tornado lifted and moved their house, which damaged the structure.

ORANGEFIELD, Texas — It's almost been two weeks since a powerful EF-2 tornado hit Orange County, but families are still recovering.

For the Smith family, their dream home in Orangefield has become a work in progress. 

Shattered glass, banisters split down the middle and a breezeway brought to the ground are just among the things Sonia and Eric Smith have had to deal with following the storm.

"It's very humbling, to realize how quick everything can go," Eric Smith said. 

The family sheltered in a small half-bath during the tornado. 

"It was panic, it was panic. I was really concerned about having other people's children at the time, as a mom," Sonia Smith said. 

Once Eric Smith gave the all clear, the family got their first look of the damage. 

"The first emotion that you really go through, is this isn't happening right now, because it happens so fast. The first reaction is no this isn't a tornado, and then you realize it is a tornado, what am I going to do," Eric Smith said. 

The Smith's realize they are more fortunate than others because they have insurance, but it's complicated.

The tornado lifted and moved their house, which damaged the structure.

"Things that are not easy to see to the eye, is what's frustrating because we need to know, we need to know, are we going to need to start from the ground over, or, do we work with what we have," Sonia Smith said. 

This family has been fortunate enough to be surrounded by good neighbors willing to help them through this time tough.

"At one time we probably had 80 people out here, last Saturday, it was insane, two different churches came out here and reached out to us," Eric and Sonia Smith said. "People bringing us food and we have no idea who they are, cooking us home cooked food, I mean, it's absolutely amazing."

At the moment, the Smith's can't stay at their house and they don't know when they will get to go back.

"You gotta look at man a lot of people have it worse, a lot of people have it worse," Eric Smith said. "I've seen some of the poor houses on sandbar, it looks like they just broke the house in half, dumped everything out, and then the house was gone, it's sad, it really is sad."

Although the storm has passed, the rebuild has barely begun.

Through all the hardships, the Smith family says they are grateful to live and be apart of the Southeast Texas community. 

Related: Weather Service confirms EF-1 tornado touched down near Bridge City, EF-2 touched down near Orangefield

Officials with the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 and an EF-2 tornado touched down in Orange County on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.

The wind speeds in the EF-1 tornado near Bridge City were estimated to be 100 mph. The tornado near Orangefield had wind speeds of 120 mph.

The severe storms left thousands without power and brought serious damage to part of the county. During the peak of the storm, more than 17,000 residents were left without power. 

A 12News crew in the area saw the aftermath which included downed power lines, downed signs, and a tipped over an 18-wheeler on Highway 62 and Interstate 10 in Orange.

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