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At least 6 dead as tornadoes rake North Texas

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 10:51 a.m. CDT

(MCT) GRANBURY, Texas — At least six people were killed and scores were injured in Hood County, Texas, Wednesday night when a tornado, one of 10 confirmed throughout North Texas, slammed into a half-mile-wide area east of Granbury, authorities said.

About 90 people were evacuated from the battered Rancho Brazos subdivision and 14 were unaccounted for, Sheriff Roger Deeds said at a midnight briefing.

After the storm hit, 18 bulldozers went into the area “to get people in and get people out,” Deeds said.

Some of the dead were found inside houses, some outside, he said.

The neighborhood has 110 homes, and during the last five years much of the construction has been by Habitat for Humanity. A family was scheduled to move into their new home on Saturday, Deeds. He didn’t know if that house was spared.

“Most of the neighborhood is heavily damaged to destroyed,” Deeds said. “Very little is untouched.”

The neighborhood was going on “lockdown” for the night. Authorities would begin assessing the damage at sunrise, he said.

A tornado warning was issued at 8:10 p.m., so residents got some warning through a phone system, he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Arlena Sherman and Allacia Jenny stood outside their homes in Rancho Brazos, oblivious to what was about to hit them.

“I was standing there watching the clouds roll in,” Sherman said. “I didn’t have a clue.”

Seconds later, the twister hit.

When Sherman stepped outside, she saw destruction all around her.

“Oh my God, it was horrible,” Sherman said. “Our houses were OK. I think the trees protected them but as we walked away, places were just gone.”

Hours after the storm passed, they were standing in a strip shopping center still trying to find their friends.

“We haven’t found them,” Jenny said. “We don’t know where they are. We’ve called hospitals. We’ve called friends. We just can’t find them.”

It was a similar story at the Lake Granbury Medical Center where Rancho Brazos residents searched for their relatives.

“We don’t know if he’s here or in Fort Worth,” said David Spanier as he looked for his cousin. “We know he survived. We just don’t where he is.”

Matt Zavadsky, a MedStar spokesman, said the Fort Worth-based service was ferrying 17 patients to Fort Worth hospitals. Three were taken in three ambulances because they were in critical condition. The other 14 were on MedStar’s new bus-size ambulance, the AMBUS, he said.

The Red Cross reported that it was setting up shelters in Granbury.

Meanwhile to the east, the storm system was making trouble for Johnson County residents.

Social media furiously churned reports of a “mile-wide” funnel cloud in Johnson County. National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Fox said that if the tornado wasn’t actually that big, “it was close.”

It was not the same twister that hit Granbury, he said.

“Power flashes” were seen on the south side of Cleburne and 80 mph winds were reported, he said.

No injuries had been reported by midnight, but there was storm damage out in the county and authorities were still driving through rural areas to see if anyone needed help, said Lt. Tim Jones, a spokesman for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department.

A flash-flood warning was issued for Johnson County after the storm passed. Fox said an estimated 4-6 inches of rain pelted the area, making roadways hazardous.

Several areas reported hail damage.

The tornado was part of a system of thunderstorms that spawned at least 10 tornadoes and dropped large hail.

It was a typical setup for spring storms, Fox said. Moist air from the Gulf of Mexico was in place, and an upper level disturbance ignited a prime area of storm development between Wichita Falls and Fort Worth.

“Some discreet cells became tornadic very quickly,” Fox said.

A tornado watch was issued about 6 p.m. for much of North Texas, including Tarrant County, as clusters of storms formed to the west and moved east.

The storms, packing lightning, large hail and powerful winds, sparked fiery-red images on weather service radar.

Winds were fierce, said Matt Bishop, a weather service meteorologist.

“We’re getting radar signatures of 80 to 100 miles,” Bishop said shortly before 8 p.m. “Those are gate-to-gate shear signatures on radar. But no one’s out there clocking winds right now.”

One funnel cloud touched down near Millsap, about 40 miles west of Fort Worth. Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said that several houses had roof damage and a barn was destroyed but that no injuries were reported.

Hail as large as grapefruit pelted the area around Mineral Wells. A dispatcher reported only minor damage.

In Wise County, a funnel cloud was spotted touching down about 8 p.m., 7 miles northeast of Decatur.

The earliest confirmed tornado was spotted about 7:20 p.m. near a truck stop on Interstate 20, about 10 miles west of Weatherford, the weather service reported.

“This is serious,” meteorologists warned via social media. “Take shelter now!”

They also reported a “possible debris ball” on radar in Parker County, nine miles south of Weatherford.

Another funnel cloud was briefly spotted near Nocona in Montague County, but no damage was reported. Others were seen near Stephenville, Goldthwaite and Bowie.

The weather service said the storms also had the potential for “damaging down-burst winds.”

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©2013 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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