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4 Dead, Dozens Injured After Tornado Rips Through Van Zandt County

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CANTON (CBSDFW.COM) - A tornado struck Van Zandt County including the east side of Canton, TX Saturday evening. Officials said Sunday a total of four people had died. Officials revised the death toll down from initial reports last night of five dead.

In a Sunday afternoon press conference, officials confirmed the death toll as of 4:00 p.m. to four and that two people are still unaccounted for in the area. No further details were released on the victims.

The National Weather Service confirmed four tornadoes ravaged these parts of North Texas Saturday.

According to the National Weather Service, preliminary reports shows two of the four tornadoes were EF-3 while the other two were EF-0.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott visited Canton to assess the damage and update media on the response of volunteer efforts. He held a press conference at 3:00 p.m. Sunday.

"Today is a difficult day for the people of Canton and the surrounding region," said Gov. Abbott. "In response to the devastation, I'm confident Texans will come together to rebuild and help their neighbors in need. I would like to express my deepest sorrow to the families of those lost, and thank the first responders for their preparedness and efforts to keep Texans safe."

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a statement on his reaction to the deadly tornadoes:

"Yesterday, the strength and spirit of our East Texas community was tested by devastating tornadoes that took the lives of five Texans and injured dozens more. In the communities of Eustace, Caney City and Canton, local officials are leading recovery efforts while first responders rushed into danger, as they do without fail, to help all of those in need. I have been in close contact with the authorities in Van Zandt and Henderson Counties and my office has offered whatever assistance necessary as they respond to this disaster. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives, and with those who were injured yesterday evening. We pray for their quick recovery, and that all of those affected can heal."

Chopper 11 was over Van Zandt County early Sunday morning as daylight revealed the extent of the damage. From the air, many damaged homes and business could be seen.


The East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) in Athens received dozens of patients. The ETMC in Cedar Creek Lake received at least eight patients. One patient was listed as critical in Athens while the rest at these facilities were said to have non-life threatening injuries.

Video Of Tornado

The ETMC in Tyler had four more patients from the Canton tornado.  All of those patients were also said to have non life-threatening injuries.

On Sunday morning, Van Zandt Co. Judge Don Kirkpatrick said that initial rescue efforts were delayed due to multiple reports of tornadoes on Saturday night.

Press Conference

Officials held a press conference late Saturday to update media. "We've got special units task forces from around the state that are going to be coming in and going through these areas," said Captain Horton of the Canton Fire Department. "We still may have some people that are unaccounted for," Horton continued.

Officials were asking the public to stay away from the affected area. "It's going to be an ongoing process. This isn't going to be taken care of overnight. We're going to be dealing with this in the morning when daylight gets here," said Horton.

Officials said they expect the damage to be a lot more evident once the sun rises in the morning.  Horton stressed that damage was not just localized to the Canton area. "We do know it's very severe from the south western part of our county traveling up northeast," said Horton. "This is a Van Zandt county issue. We have a triage set up here in Canton and in other areas," Horton continued.

Horton said there were five dead but that total was revised down Sunday morning to four. He stressed that as officials continue to search, they may find more casualties. "That number may go up in the morning once we can get into these areas," said Horton.

Horton said that officials are out looking for survivors. "We have officers at major intersections along the affected area. If people need help, or they can get to a main road, we have officers there. Its a big swath that we have to cover. We will get them to a shelter," said Horton.

Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett said the city is asking people to stay away from that area today including the popular First Monday Trade Days. First Monday Trade Days grounds were not hit but the Mayor said the event will still be closed Sunday.

The mayor also said that due to power outages, the water system in that city was offline. She told CBS 11 News that generators were being brought in to help get the water system back online.

Canton tornado damage
Canton tornado damage (courtesy: Jason McLaughlin)

As of early Sunday morning, Oncor said that over "4,000 points of delivery were out. According to Kris Spears, poles have been snapped and uprooted. Spears said crews have been on the ground since it was safe to do so Saturday night and will be on the ground "around the clock" until power can be restored. There is no estimate on when the power will be back on in most areas.

Crews from other areas outside the Canton area are helping to restore power along with the normal crews assigned to Canton said Spears.

The Rowlett Police Department and Rowlett Fire Rescue units went to Canton to help in the aftermath of the tornado. Crews from Rockwall County also headed to the area.

A spokesperson for Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler told CBS11, ambulances from the damaged areas were en route to the hospital with people suffering anywhere from minor to serious injuries.

A triage center was also set up at Canton High School. TV crews were not allowed in that area, but it was said to be very crowded.

Gov.Greg Abbott also said help was on the way to Canton Saturday night. "Texas Task Force 2 has been sent to help the Canton & Van Zandt areas respond to weather," Abbott tweeted.

Aftermath of storms

The North Texas American Red Cross responded to the disaster as well. A shelter was opened at First Methodist Church Life Center, 600 S. Buffalo in Canton. Another shelter was opened at Emory City Center, 320 Texas Street North in Emory. 

The Red Cross said volunteers will begin damage assessment Sunday, April 30 if it is safe to do so.

Anyone affected by the storms can contact the Red Cross at 866-505-4801.

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