DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- It's been nearly six months since an EF3 tornado ripped through parts of Deer Park and Pasadena. One place that suffered severe damage on that fateful day is St. Hyacinth Catholic Church, which is moving along on the road to recovery.
Father Reginald Samuels will never forget the events that transpired on January 24th. He's been at St. Hyacinth, which was established in the 1960s, for 11 years. He remembers being with his staff in the parish office when they received the cell phone alerts to take cover.
"We had just concluded our staff meeting, so the majority of my staff was here on campus during that time. The weather started really changing and we noticed the wind outside the offices were changing very rapidly. Everything started getting dark outside. We hunkered down and sheltered in place," said Samuels.
He went on to say, "I've never experienced anything like that. The noise, the wind, the building shaking around you, the dust coming from the ceilings, and the glass breaking. We were praying and heard a loud sound. Then it was very quiet after that."
After seeing the devastation left behind by the twister, he said it was a miracle everyone made it out alive. The tornado cut off all of their utilities, destroyed their religious education building, damaged parts of the church's roof, and threw tree limbs everywhere.
"We had no communications, no electricity, no phones, and no computers. Luckily, we were able to contact our archdiocese, which immediately got our emergency response team out here to our parish. They were able to start helping with the restoration and cleaning up of the complex to get us back on track," said Samuels. "But we were basically running blind for a whole month and a half."
Despite all the destruction, parishioners packed the church just five days later for Father Samuels' first mass since the tornado.
"It's the first day I've seen our little church. I've been a member here for 40 years and I got teary eyed seeing it, but yet we're very blessed," Cynthia Hendricks told ABC13 on January 29th.
Nearly six months later, construction is still visible at St. Hyacinth. Crews will take the next two months to finish up the roof and smaller repairs throughout the campus. Then they'll begin working on a brand new religious education building, which should be finished by spring of next year.
While the process has been long and challenging, Father Samuels shared what's kept them going is their faith.
"God blessed us and brought us through this storm. Now he's telling us and leading us to help other people through their storms and I think it just makes us stronger."