North Texas residents took in the devastation on Thursday wreaked by a series of tornadoes that killed six and injured dozens more in what Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds described as a “nightmare” scenario.
Seven of 14 people who had previously been unaccounted for had checked in by Thursday morning, Deeds said at a press conference on Thursday. About 100 people were reported injured and as many as 250 were homeless after the swarm of twisters that ripped up trees and knocked down homes on Wednesday evening.
The six deceased were all adults, Deeds said. There have been no reports of injuries to first responders, the sheriff said.
“Everything’s running smooth, everything’s looking good,” Deeds said of recovery efforts on Thursday.
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Granbury, a town of 8,000 about 65 miles southwest of Dallas, was thought to be among the worst-hit areas. Images of the town revealed leveled homes, badly damaged cars, uprooted trees and downed power lines.
Nineteen buildings and 17 mobile homes were destroyed in Hood County, the sheriff’s office said in an initial damage assessment on Thursday. Seventeen more buildings showed major damage, while more than 40 showed minor damage including to windows and roofing shingles.
“It's rough, very rough. Everything's demolished," a resident told KXAS as she hurried away from the neighborhood with her arms around a child. "It was like hell."
Mike Fuentes / AP
Johnny Ortiz, left, and James South carry Miguel Morales, who was injured in a tornado, to an ambulance in Granbury, Texas, on Wednesday.
The six people who were confirmed dead were in the Rancho Brazos neighborhood on the outskirts of Granbury, Deeds said. He added that the homes there were mostly built within the past five years by Habitat for Humanity.
“I had three different storms that came through but this is the worst one,” Deeds said.
The tornadoes swept through the towns of Granbury and nearby Cleburne, causing “heavy damage,” Deeds said. The search for other people who might have gotten caught up in the storm continued with day break.
“I’ve been assured by my deputies on the scene that they’re pretty confident with the six that they found, but there was a report that two of these people that they found were not even near their homes. So we’re going to have to search the area out there,” Deeds said.
The tornado that hit Granbury was rated EF-4 by the National Weather Service in a preliminary report, meaning that winds reached between 160 and 200 miles per hour.
The tornadoes seemed to have caused less damage in Cleburne, where Mayor Scott Cain told KXAS. The town did “have the potential for some injuries,” Cain said.
The National Weather Service reported three tornadoes across Montague and Hood counties. Storm surveys to determine the extent of the damage were planned for Hood, Johnson, Montague, and Parker counties on Thursday, the weather service’s Dallas-Fort Worth office announced. At least ten tornadoes touched ground across Texas on Wednesday evening according to Mark Fox, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Some witnesses have said the tornado that swept through Johnson County may have been as much as a mile wide. While that twister that hit Granbury was smaller, it struck a more populated area and was “just as destructive,” according to Fox.
People in the affected areas had a little more than the national average of 13 minutes warning before the tornadoes struck, according to the National Weather Service.
“The warning came well before the tornadoes,” Fox said. Residents of Montague County were alerted about 15 to 30 minutes before the storm struck, and in Hood County a warning was issued 25 minutes before the tornado touched down.
Several tornadoes touched down in an area west of the Dallas-Fort Worth region of Texas Wednesday night, killing at least six and destroying dozens of homes. NBC's Charles Hadlock reports.
Nearly forty patients were taken to Lake Granbury Medical Center and 18 discharged, with the majority of injuries including cuts, broken bones, and some head injuries. A total of eight patients were admitted to the emergency room at the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. Two of the patients were in critical condition as of 4 a.m. local time.
“I’ve been at LGMC for over 12 years, and we have never seen a community catastrophe with as many injuries as we did through last night,” said Kyle McCombs, chief of staff at Lake Granbury Medical Center, in a press release. “However, these are the types of disasters that our medical team continuously prepares for.”
Relocation centers have been set up Granbury Methodist and First Christian churches in Hood County.
The tornado outbreak was by far the year's deadliest, the weather service said. Prior to Wednesday night, there had been three fatal tornadoes this year, killing one person each in Georgia, Mississippi and eastern Texas.
Anita Foster of the American Red Cross, which opened two shelters in Granbury, told KXAS that 42 people had spent the night in the shelters. She added that only a quarter of people who are left homeless in such disasters typically seek shelter with the Red Cross, indicating that many more had been affected.
"We’re going to have a lot of people who are going to need some help," she said, adding, "It was a really frightening evening. It was a devastating event for our community."
The tornadoes, normal for this time of year, formed as the warm, moist air of the Texas springtime encountered an upper level storm between Wichita and Dallas, Fox said. A few thunderstorms hung over the state on Thursday but the weather system headed eastward for the most part, he said.
Severe weather was expected to sweep into some parts of the Midwest and Plains states with the potential for tornadoes heading into the weekend, the Weather Channel reported.
About 60 departures have been canceled and 70 flights diverted from Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport, spokesman David Magana told the Associated Press.
NBC News' John Newland and Andrew Rafferty contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 12:39 AM EDT