GRANBURY (CBSDFW.COM) - At least six people were confirmed dead, more are missing, and extensive damage was reported after as many as three tornadoes slammed into the lakefront town of Granbury on Wednesday evening, flattening homes and buildings and tossing vehicles like toys.
At a Thursday morning press conference Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said some 37 people had been taken to Lake Granbury Hospital. Fifteen of those individuals were transported to larger North Texas hospitals -- including Harris Methodist where eight people from Granbury are being treated, two in critical condition and one in serious condition as of Thursday morning. Three people were admitted to the Granbury Hospital and 19 people were treated and released. As many as 100 other people were injured.
More than 250 people were evacuated from the heavily damaged Rancho Brazos neighborhood, southeast of Granbury, according to Deeds. He said the identities of the deceased had not been confirmed, but that all of the dead were adults. Authorities had reported 14 people were missing immediately after the storms, but several of them had been located by Thursday morning. "We are doing a through search of the area again, with Search & Rescue Task Force 2 Team from Dallas Fire Rescue," he said.
The tornado was part of a massive system of severe thunderstorms that spawned several tornadoes across North Texas, dropping large hail stones in some areas. The National Weather Service estimates that 10 tornadoes may have touched down.
As for warnings issued in the communities hit by twisters Sheriff Deeds said, "I worked very closely with the storm spotters last night when my dispatch center notified me at approximately 6:14 [p.m.] that we had storms coming in and to activate the storm spotters. We worked very closely with them [and] had, it was between 12 and 15 storm spotters on the ground... very good trained people and coordination was good, radio communication was good," he said. "I was talking directly to the National Weather Service. We gave them the information of what we saw, they confirmed it, and they did recommend the warnings. They put it out. We put it out basically at the same time."
Deeds went on to say that officials used the Code Red Notification System and sounded sirens. "We got information out there as fast as we could, as soon as we realized it was getting bad. So, we did it as fast as we could. As fast as the information was coming out."
Likely tornadoes also did extensive damage in Cleburne and Ennis, officials in both cities said. The Cleburne Independent School District canceled classes on Thursday because of widespread damage and power outages. Two school buildings were also damaged. Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said that rescue teams would resume their search through ravaged neighborhoods at first light to check for more injured residents.
Steve Howerton, the city manager in Ennis, said that roughly 25 homes and 40 other buildings were damaged, including some in the city's historic downtown area. This number is expected to grow as daylight breaks. Most of the damage was from high winds and fallen trees. There was also one minor injury.
In Granbury, Mayor Pro-Tem Nin Hullet said that most of the damage was confined to a concentrated area with "probably over 50 homes that have been damaged severely, some of them even flattened."
Tornado In Granbury
Damage In Granbury
People who live in the hard hit de Cordova Ranch area were evacuated after the tornado due to a gas leak. CBS 11 News reporter Andrea Lucia spoke with several residents who had been evacuated from their homes, who described a terrifying experience. "It started hailing, and so we opened up the curtains and stood in the middle of the house. Then, all of a sudden, things just started swirling. You could see stuff going all through the air," said a resident identified only as Paul. After the storm passed through, he said that just about every home he could see had at least minor damage, and others were destroyed. "At the top of the hill, you could tell where the tornado went through directly, 'cause it's just wiped out. Trees gone. Houses completely demolished."
Patricia, a mother of five kids, said that she barely had time to gather her family together as the storm approached. "I just held on to them," she said. "There was nothing else I could do. I heard the alarm. The wind was blowing. I felt my house shake. I felt the wind gushing through it." She said that she prayed with her children and felt relief once the storm passed through. But, she said, that feeling did not last long once she stepped outside. "I went out to check on my neighbors and there was nothing left... there was nothing left."
Deeds described the Rancho Brazos subdivision as having about 110 homes, many built within the past five years through Habitat for Humanity. He now described the area as a "war zone."
Granbury Independent School District spokesman Jeff Meador said that 20 to 30 people were treated by medical personnel at a school. The district will have classes as scheduled on Thursday.
The American Red Cross set up shelters for evacuees at First Christian Church, 2109 West Highway 377, and at First United Methodist Church, 301 Loop 567. About 50 people and twice as many volunteers had shown up at the shelters by Midnight. Teams from the Salvation Army were also set to deploy to Hood County to provide help for victims and first responders.
The same storm spawned another tornado that storm spotters told the National Weather Service was a mile wide. That twister tore through part of Cleburne, about 25 miles southeast of Granbury. Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said that he had no reports of fatalities and had no estimate on injuries. But his inspection of the affected neighborhood in the southwestern part of his city, he said, revealed dozens of homes destroyed or damaged.
Another tornado hit the town of Millsap, about 40 miles west of Fort Worth. Parker County Judge Mark Kelley said that roof damage was reported to several homes and a barn was destroyed, but no injuries were reported.
Hail up to the size of grapefruit pelted the area around Mineral Wells on Wednesday evening. A police dispatcher reported only minor damage.
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