A Year Ago Today: Tornado devastates Salado community, injures 23

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 10:23 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2023 at 10:25 AM CDT
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SALADO, Texas (KWTX) - On Tuesday, April 12, 2022, a high-end EF-3 tornado with maximum wind speed around 165 miles per hour was tracked across southern Bell County and into the Salado area, injuring dozens of people and flattening properties along the way.

Officials, at the time, confirmed 23 people were injured, including 12 who required hospitalization. The tornado began in Williamson County, but the track in Bell county was estimated to be nearly 13 miles long with a duration of about 30 minutes.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued a disaster declaration to expedite the use emergency management resources to help homeowners devastated by the destructive tornado. At the time, officials said 106 addresses in the Bell County area suffered some sort of damage as a result of the storm. The tornado itself damaged or destroyed 76 buildings in the county.

Two churches in the Salado area, Victory Baptist Church and First Cedar Valley Baptist Church, were wiped off the map.

In the wake of the devastation, Billy Borho, the pastor at Victory Baptist, hosted a service in the empty lot to show the faithful the church is more than the four walls. “I think the focus today should be on our relationship with the lord and why this came,” Borho told KWTX at the time. “Why did this come? Why did he let this happen? There’s a reason. I don’t know all the reasons, but I know that God is faithful and I know that he loves his people.”

Soon after the storm, First Cedar Valley Baptist Church received an “unreal” amount of donations to help it rebuild.

Nearly a year after the storm, Texas Governor Greg Abbott returned to Salado to celebrate First Cedar Valley Baptist Church’s new building.

Easter Sunday 2023 looked a lot different for both of the congregations. “As I look back, and I begin to see things begin to happen, that I never would have dreamed, then the only thing I can think of is victory,” Borho told KWTX.

As stories of survival emerged in the days after the storm, perhaps, the one that captured the most attention was that of the Rios Family. The entire family required hospitalization after suffering critical injuries when the tornado destroyed their mobile home, and flung them hundreds of feet away.

The family was in its mobile home off FM2843 when the tornado warnings came in. The children’s uncle, Stephen Perez, told KWTX the family first tried to drive off but when hail began to fall, they retreated back into their mobile home. The tornado quickly shredded their home.

The most critically injured was Miriam Rios, 6, a girl found unconscious and dangling upside down from a cedar tree where the wind had tossed her hundreds of yards from her house. Her pregnant mother, Vanessa Rios, suffered a miscarriage.

Miriam and her relatives eventually recovered and were released from the hospital.