Texas tornadoes: At least 11 killed as tornadoes ravage parts of North Texas

December 28, 2015 7:05 am

Jeep Liberty sits destroyed after Saturday’s tornado in Rockwall, .
Photo: Nathan Hunsinger/The Morning via AP

At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in strong tornadoes
that swept through the Dallas area at the weekend and caused substantial
damage, while 12 people died in flooding in the Midwest.
It was
the latest of a succession of powerful weather events across the
country, from heavy snow in New Mexico, west Texas and the Oklahoma
Panhandle to flooding in parts of the Plains and Midwest. Days of
tumultuous weather have led to 42 deaths overall – those in Texas, plus
five in Illinois, seven in Missouri and 19 in the Southeast.
full extent of damage from the weekend’s storms along a nearly 40-mile
stretch near Dallas came into clear focus. Local officials estimated as
many as 1000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Vehicles were mangled,
power lines fell and trees were toppled. Heavy rain, wind and falling
temperatures hampered clean-up efforts yesterday afternoon.

Residents take a picture near a pile of debris at an apartment complex damaged by the tornadoes. Photo: Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Residents take a picture near a pile of
debris at an apartment complex damaged by the tornadoes. Photo: Nathan
Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News via AP

“This is a huge impact on our community and we’re all
suffering,” Garland Police Lieutenant Pedro Barineau said of the suburb
about 30km northeast of Dallas, where eight people died, 15 were injured
and about 600 structures, mostly single-family homes, were damaged.
weather service said an EF-4 tornado, which is the second-most powerful
with winds up to more than 320km/h, hit the community at about 6.45pm
Saturday (local time). It was near the intersection of Interstate 30 and
George Bush Turnpike, which is a major route in the region. At least
three people who died were found in vehicles, said Barineau, who also
noted that some cars appeared to be thrown from the interstate, though
it wasn’t known whether that was how the people found in the vehicles
Natalie Guzman, 33, took photos of her family’s home in a
Garland neighbourhood. The garage wall had collapsed and the roof fell
in. The only part of the house that appeared to be spared was the master
bathroom, where her brother-in-law took shelter that night. He was the
only one at home and told her he had just enough time to get himself and
his dogs into the bathroom.
“It was worse than I thought,” Guzman said, comparing the scene to the photos he had sent Saturday.

People assess the damage to a storage facility destroyed by the tornadoes. Photo / Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News via AP
People assess the damage to a storage
facility destroyed by the tornadoes. Photo / Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas
Morning News via AP
The destruction in Garland was so overwhelming that Dallas
County Judge Clay Jenkins declared the city a disaster within mere
minutes of seeing the toll firsthand.
“I don’t declare local
disasters lightly,” Jenkins said. “But I looked at the scene for 10
minutes, spoke to the incident commander and then called the lawyers to
bring the paperwork.”
In the nearby town of Rowlett, city manager
Brian Funderburk said 23 people were injured, but that there were no
deaths and no reports of missing people. The weather service said damage
indicated it was likely an EF-3 tornado, which has winds up to 265km/h.
Vermurlen lived in a Rowlett neighbourhood that suffered heavy damage.
His house had only minor damage, but those next to him were flattened.
“I grabbed both dogs by the collars and held on to the toilet. I said, ‘OK, this could be it, boys.'”
in the neighbourhood that had been searched by emergency responders
were marked with a black “X.” In some instances, it looked like homes
had been picked up and set back down in a big pile. State troopers
blocked off roads, utility crews restored power and people walked
around, hushed and dazed.
Three other people died in Collin
County, about 70km northeast of Dallas, according to sheriff’s deputy
Chris Havey, although the circumstances were not immediately clear.
Governor Greg Abbott made disaster declarations today for four counties
– Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Ellis – and warned that the number of
victims could rise.
On the other side of the state, the
Department of Public Safety in Amarillo strongly discouraged travel
throughout the entire Texas Panhandle – a 26-county area covering nearly
68,000sq km – because blowing and drifting snow had made the roads
impassable. Interstate 40, the main east-west highway across the
Panhandle, was almost completely shut down. DPS said only a small
section of the highway in Amarillo remained open.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency as there
were blizzard conditions and an ice storm warning out west and flood
warnings in the east, where one community had received 22cm of rain.
Further north, rain caused dangerous driving conditions and flooding in Missouri and Illinois.
people died overnight when two separate vehicles drove into flooded
roadways in south-central Missouri, Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long
said, and KYTV reported that authorities recovered the body of a driver
yesterday from a creek in the southwest part of the state. Also
yesterday, three adults and two children drowned in southern Illinois
when the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a
rain-swollen creek.
The death toll in the Southeast linked to
severe weather rose to 19 today when Alabama authorities found the body
of a 22-year-old man whose vehicle was swept away while attempting to
cross a bridge; a 5-year-old’s body was recovered for that incident
yesterday. Ten people have died in Mississippi, and six died in
Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.

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