POLK COUNTY, Texas - After more than three months, the cleanup continues in Onalaska following a powerful EF-3 tornado in April.
According to the National Weather Service, the April twister was the deadliest tornado in the Houston area in more than 30 years. Three people were killed and more than 30 were injured.
“I remember yelling out to my mom, ‘oh my gosh, we’re going to die,’” said 13-year-old survivor Keagen Laake. “She’s like, no we’re not. Just get down. So, I did.”
This week, we met the teen and his mother where their family’s home stood in Yaupon Cove, near Lake Livingston. The home was blown away by the violent tornado.
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“The pile of dirt was the house,” said Laake. “I saw the walls, I don’t know how to explain it, but it looked like they exploded. I was flipping and flipping. I remember something hitting me in the gut and throwing up.”
Laake had taken shelter in the home’s bathroom, alongside his mother, uncle, and aunt. Laake and his mother both broke several bones. The strong 13-year-old spent about two months in a hospital and remains in a wheelchair. He’s currently taking physical therapy to regain walking strength.
“I shattered my ankle,” said Laake. “There was an infection going up my leg. They had to take part of my skin off.”
Three people died that tragic day in Onalaska, including Laake’s uncle and aunt, 29-year-old Taylor Holbert and 27-year-old Brooke Ivey.
RELATED: Three killed, dozens injured by tornado in Polk County
“Taylor loves his momma,” said Nina Acevedo, Laake’s mother. “He said he was never going to leave her, and he never did. Brooke, she was the sweetest thing. They both loved the outdoors.”
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More than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed across the small town.
“It was like a bomb hit it,” said Henry Smith, a 72-year-old with a destroyed home. “It was just trashed out.”
Smith says he doesn’t have insurance and has spent the summer rebuilding his family’s home.
“I’m going to try and have it done by Thanksgiving,” said Smith. “So, we can have a big dinner. We have ways to go.”
While many people work to fix their homes, the healing process continues for Keagen. The young teenager started a YouTube channel and is hoping people follow his recovery journey. If you’re interested, click here.
Also, the family does have a fundraising page setup that can be found here.