GRANBURY, Texas — At least six people were killed and another seven were still unaccounted for Thursday morning after a tornado ripped through a subdivision Wednesday night, flattening homes and crushing vehicles.
More than 50 people were injured, with at least 30 of them being transported to hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, officials said.
The tornado, one of at least six confirmed across North Texas Wednesday night, did most of its damage in the Rancho Brazos subdivision, Sheriff Roger Deeds said at a news conference Thursday morning.
He said the six people killed all were from the subdivision and that all were adults. They have not yet been identified, he said.
At an earlier news conference, Deeds said that 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.”
He said that search and rescue teams continued to pick through the rubble Thursday morning.
As the sun rose Thursday morning, the intensity of the tornado became more clear. Some houses were ripped off their foundations, others had roofs ripped off and windows blown out. One home that lost its roof still had a clothes closet intact.
Trees were splintered and stripped of branches and leaves. Cars and trucks were beaten and battered.
Earlier Wednesday, Arlena Sherman and Allacia Jenny had 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, at about 8 p.m., 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.
Deeds said that 22 people remained at the shelters Thursday morning.
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. 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, off County Road 2323.
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.
The tornado actually touched down in Millsap, which is about 15 miles west of Weatherford.
“Spotters said that a tornado was on the ground there,” said Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler on Thursday.
Roofs from two homes were blown away, said Millsap City Manager Mark Barnes on Thursday, but no injuries were reported.
Parker County officials also noted that one or two trailer homes were toppled over by a tornado in the Millsap area.
“We dodged a bullet,” said Joel Kertok, with Parker County emergency management.
Storm survey teams will be out Thursday to determine how many tornadoes hit North Texas on Wednesday, said metorologist Jesse Moore at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth.
“We had at least half a dozen, but we won’t know the exact number until later today,” Moore said on Thursday.
Teams will be in Hood, Johnson, Ellis, Parker and Montague counties to survey damages.
The weather service said the storms also had the potential for “damaging down-burst winds.”