GRANBURY (AP/WFAA) — Six people were killed Wednesday as a spring tornado outbreak devastated parts of North Texas, destroying or damaging dozens of homes and injuring dozens of people.
The National Weather Service says 16 tornadoes touched down in the region on Wednesday. Initial estimates put that number at 10, however the NWS added six more throughout Thursday afternoon and night.
In its preliminary findings, the National Weather Service rated the tornado that hit Hood County Wednesday night an EF-4, which is labeled "devastating" by the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The scale ranges from from FO, defined as a gale, to F5, defined as incredible.
The last time a tornado as powerful as an EF-4 tore through North Texas was in Lancaster in 1994. The half-mile wide tornado killed three people, injured 48, destroyed 80 percent of the downtown square and ripped apart 233 homes and 58 businesses.
The worst-hit city Wednesday was Granbury, where authorities say a deadly tornado tore through two neighborhoods about 8 p.m. Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds delivered the death toll at a midnight news conference.
"Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses," Deeds said. He also said the total could climb as crews pick through the rubble of shattered homes.
"Pray for Granbury," the sheriff said.
During a Thursday afternoon briefing, Deeds said four men and two women died as a result of the tornadoes. The victims were identified as Glenda Whitehead, age unknown, Bob Whitehead, approximately 60, Tommy Martin, 61, Leo Stefanski, 83, Jose Tovar Alvarez, 34,and Marjari Davis, 82.
About 50 people were taken to a Granbury hospital, where 14 were admitted for treatment of injuries and two were transferred to a hospital in Fort Worth, about 35 miles to the northeast, Deeds said.
As many as 100 people were injured, said Matt Zavadsky, spokesman for MedStar Mobile Healthcare. His company sent three ambulances and a medical bus from its Fort Worth base to Granbury.
Wednesday night, Deeds said officials were trying to account for 14 people, however he said they were able to locate seven of those people by 8 a.m. Thursday. Deeds said six or seven remained missing in the afternoon, although he was "very confident we're going to find the people alive and well and they just haven't reported to us."
Hardest hit were two neighborhoods, Rancho Brazos Estates and DeCordova Ranch, in the southern end of the town of about 8,000 residents about 65 miles southwest of Dallas.
The families affected by the tornado are wondering when they will get access to their homes.
"All the families waiting on word to see if they can go in, to see what's left of their houses, their belongings," said Patricia Ann Tomlin, whose daughter lost her home. "We feel helpless."
Sheriff Deeds doesn't know yet when they be allowed back in.
"I'm taking it day by day," he said.
Ambulances from as far away as Fort Worth were being called to Granbury, said Tye Bell, Richland Hills police spokesman who was heading to Granbury on Wednesday night. Sheriff Deeds said the hardest-hit areas are blocked off to residents. He did not have an estimate for when they would be allowed back to their homes, citing concerns of gas leaks and downed power lines.
"At this point in time, I don't have a clue what to tell you, whether it'll be tomorrow or the next day or when," he said.
Rancho Brazos Estates resident Elizabeth Tovar said she rode out the tornado with her husband and sister as she clutched her 9-month-old daughter.
"We heard the winds whipping and glass smashing everywhere," said Tovar, 25. "I felt like a long time and when things died down I looked up and saw that the roof was gone."
Another resident of that neighborhood, Allacia Jenny, said she witnessed devastation in her neighborhood.
"The house across from mine looked like it was destroyed," said Jenny, 22.
Toppled large trees litter her yard, and "I saw power lines all over the place," she said.
At Stumpy's Lakeside Grill in Lake Granbury, the storm took diners and workers by surprise. Some people rushed inside from the patio and ducked under tables as the wind gusts and hail started, but nobody was injured, said Eric Martinez, a cook. Then they looked across the lake and saw several homeowners' boat docks "just get torn apart," he said.
"The boat docks just flew off, and they're actually gone," Martinez said, adding that the boards and other debris landed in some yards.
Granbury schools will be open on Thursday.
The same storm spawned another tornado that storm spotters told the National Weather Service was a mile wide. That twister tore through the southwestern quadrant of Cleburne, a courthouse city of about 30,000 about 25 miles southeast of Granbury.
There were no reports of deaths in that storm, Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said, "but we do have the potential for some injuries." He had no estimates.
Gerard Elementary School and homes in the neighborhood sustained storm damage. Roofs were gone, cars were toppled, power lines were down and debris littered the streets. State troopers were keeping onlookers away.
Cain had no estimate on the number of homes damaged, but he said he expected the number to soar into the dozens based on his inspection of damage ranging from roof damage to total destruction.
Downtown Ennis was hit by an EF-1 tornado around 12:02 a.m. Thursday, causing significant damage, the city manager told News 8. About 25 percent of the city was left without power, but only one minor injury was reported. A boy suffered cuts on his arm and head from broken glass. He was treated and released from an Ennis hospital.
About 40 commercial and 25 residential structures were damaged in the path of the tornado, which extended about 2.5 miles along Ennis Avenue from Clay Street to Centennial Drive, according to an initial assessment early Thursday morning. The tornado ripped through just after midnight, peeling the corrugated metal roof off the Ennis Inn motel. Twisted sheets of that metal were blown into nearby businesses, some more than 100 yards away.
Down the street, a Dairy Queen was left ravaged.
"I cried," said manager Nicole Hunter. "I was in tears."
The twister left shreds of hanging metal near its front entrance. It blew an air conditioning unit off the roof.
"One is laying on the ground, over there behind the trailer," said Joey Pratt, the Dairy Queen owner. "It's pretty bad. We've got water inside where the AC blew off the roof."
A tall sign, designed to stick out to drivers along Interstate 45, was snapped like a toothpick, flinging the logo to the concrete ground below.
"We're very lucky it was a business," Hunter said. "Nobody was here, instead of homes where other people had lost things. So we're very blessed, for sure."
As of Thursday afternoon, 530 people are without power.
Another tornado hit the small town of Millsap, about 40 miles west of Fort Worth. Parker County Judge Mark Kelley said roof damage was reported to several houses and a barn was destroyed, but no injuries were reported.
Hail as large as grapefruit also pelted the area around Mineral Wells on Wednesday evening. A police dispatcher reported only minor damage.
Associated Press writer John L. Mone reported from Granbury; Terry Wallace reported from Dallas; Angela K. Brown and Jamie Stengle in Dallas also contributed. WFAA reporters Monika Diaz, Marcus Moore and Teresa Woodard in Granbury; Todd Unger and Jason Whitely in Cleburne; and Jobin Panicker in Millsap also contributed to this story.
3:20p The National Weather Service now says 12 tornadoes touched down in North Texas on Wednesday night. They've added one in Johnson County, southeast of Cleburne, and another in the Parker County town of Milsap.
2:45p The tornado that touched down in the Parker County town of Milsap was an EF-1, meaning it reached winds of about 100 mph. - WFAA
1:26p Eleven people injured in the Granbury tornado were taken to JPS Health Network in Fort Worth. As of this morning, six were discharged. We have five patients in the hospital, three in serious condition, two in good condition. - JPS Health Network
1:20p Tornado in Cleburne rated an EF-3 by the National Weather Service. - WFAA
11a Oncor reports approximately 531 customers without electrical power in Ennis. Down from 3,000 customers at 1:00 AM this morning. Most major roads are open (Ennis Avenue is closed between Main Street and Sherman Street). City crews are clearing trees from minor roads. - Steve Howerton, Ennis city manager.
10:38a Cleburne will hold a 2 p.m. news conference to give updates on damage and cleanup. - WFAA
9a Volunteers who are heading to Hood county are asked to report to First Methodist Church in Granbury; 301 Loop 567. - Marcus Moore reporting from Hood County
8:49a Three people are still hospitalized from the storm in Hood County. A total of 37 people were injured in that county. - Marcus Moore reporting from Hood County
5:57a Isolated showers and storms possible this morning. We could see scattered storms again later this afternoon. Highs in the lower 80s. - Meteorologist Greg Fields
5:30a Want to volunteer in Granbury? Go to First United Methodist Church 301 Loop 567. Meet on the Loop side & look for the CERT trailer. - Teresa Woodard reporting from Granbury
5:25a Electric lines are tangled on the ground after a tornado touched down in Cleburne snapping utility poles. - Jason Whitely reporting from Cleburne
5:15a Cleburne police checking IDs of people in hardest hit Winchester subdivision preventing sightseers. - Jason Whitely reporting from Cleburne
5:07a Granbury ISD will operate on a normal schedule Thursday. School officials will be working to provide assistance to families affected by tonight's storms. GISD school buses have been assisting with the evacuation to two local churches. Our thoughts are with all in our community tonight. - Granbury ISD
5:05a Urban search and rescue teams from Dallas and also from state level have arrived in Rancho Brazos Estates in Granbury. - Teresa Woodard reporting from Granbury
5:03a A search and rescue team from Dallas will help look for survivors and victims in Hood Couinty. Efforts expected to resume at sunrise. - Marcus Moore reporting from Hood County
4:15a Half of Cleburne without electricity, mayor estimates, after destructive tornado late Thursday night. Cleburne ISD closed on Thursday after tornadoes. Gerard Elementary and Smith Middle suffered damage, Mayor Scott Cain says. - Jason Whitely reporting from Cleburne
12:55a Granbury Medical Center spokeswoman Dixie Lee Hedgecock said more than 40 tornado victims were brought to the facility with injuries ranging from minor abrasions to serious contusions and abrasions. Some patients have been released; others continue to be evaluated, but only one has been admitted. Anyone seeking information about patients at the hospital can call this number: 817-579-2888. - WFAA
12:53a The tornado watch for all of North Texas has now been canceled. - National Weather Service
12:31a A phone bank has been established for relatives seeking information about the victims of the tornadoes in Hood County. Call 682-498-8010. - Monika Diaz reporting from Granbury
12:30a All tornado warnings have now been canceled. - National Weather Service
12:23a Tree and roof damage is reported in downtown Ennis in Ellis County as a dangerous storm associated with a tornado warning is moving to the west toward Mabank. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
12:18a We're walking through a residence near Cleburne that had its roof ripped off as a violent storm passed. Darrin Vasquez said it was "loud and very violent" as the storm created a "vacuum" that appeared to be lifting everything up. "Thank God we're all right. We all said our prayers," Vasquez said. He used a mattress to shield his family from debris in a bathroom of their home. - Jason Whitely reporting from Cleburne
12:16a A new tornado warning has been issued for east-central Ellis County, south-central Kaufman County and north-central Navarro County until 12:45 a.m. - National Weather Service
12:10a Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds confirms six dead in at least three tornadoes that hit his county near Granbury. "That could climb higher as the night goes on," he said, adding that the hardest-hit area is the Rancho Brazos subdivision, with the damage concentrated along Davis Road between Acton Highway and Rhea Road. He said 14 people were unaccounted for. "Pray for Granbury," he said. - Monika Diaz reporting from Granbury
12:04a Emergency personnel have surrounded a damaged home at a subdivision near Granbury where there may be additional victims of the tornado that ripped through this area on Wednesday night. - Teresa Woodard reporting from Granbury
12:01a Some of the worst damage in Cleburne is along Chaucer Drive. We're several blocks away from that location, because authorities aren't letting anyone get close because of the danger of downed power lines. The power is out where we are, trees are down and streets are flooded. - Jason Whitely reporting from Cleburne
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15
11:50p The American Red Cross has established two shelters for tornado victims; First Christian Church of Granbury and First United Methodist Church of Granbury. - WFAA
11:38p The Hood County sheriff's office has just confirmed a third fatality linked to the tornado near Granbury on Wednesday evening. - WFAA
11:32p The Hood County sheriff is expected to hold a news conference to update the latest on tornado damage and injuries at midnight CT. - WFAA
11:20p Granbury ISD reports no known damage to school buildings. District buses are helping with the evacuation of residents who suffered tornado damage. Granbury ISD spokesman Jeff Meador said many school employees were volunteering their services. - WFAA
11:06p Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain says downed power lines are making it difficult to get some families out of their homes. "They're safe right now," he said, adding that a shelter was being set up at the city's convention center off Henderson Street for residents who need the help. - WFAA
11:04p We are seeing devastating damage from the epicenter of the tornado damage in a subdivision around three miles southeast of Granbury. Cars are upside-down. Firefighters and police are combing through the wreckage, going home to home making sure there are no additional victims. We saw several victims walking out of the damage zone accompanied by firefighters. - Teresa Woodard reporting in Granbury
10:30p It's a scene of complete devastation in this neighborhood off Acton Highway near Granbury. Emergency personnel are going door-to-door trying to determine if anyone is trapped in damaged homes. Dozens of ambulances were staging nearby at a triage center to deal with as many as 100 injuries. Two fatalities have been confirmed. - Teresa Woodard reporting from Granbury
10:22p Two storm-related fatalities are reported near Granbury. - WFAA
10:19p "We're starting to see quite a bit of damage," said WFAA reporter Todd Unger as he is driving into Cleburne. He said he is seeing quite a few limbs down and some damage to homes. There was a report of at least one tornado touchdown south and west of the city. A staging area for emergency personnel was being set up at Cleburne City Hall. - Todd Unger reporting in Cleburne
10:16p "We've got a lot of injuries out there right now," Granbury Mayor Pro Tem Nin Hulett told News 8. He confirmed reports of more than 50 homes damages, with a handful flattened by the storm. He said the most intense damage was "pretty much isolated" to the Rancho Brazos subdivision just outside the city limits. - WFAA
10:08p Lake Granbury Christian Temple Pastor Dean Porter was having a Bible study in the fellowship hall when the hail started coming down. "It began to suck up debris, and I ran inside and got our people and children into a safer location," he said. "Apparently what happened was, the tornado formed over us and touched down on the other end of our property." Pastor Porter said the funnel cloud demolished a horse stable and ruptured a pipeline before moving on. He said he is still concerned about parishioners who may have been in the path of the storm. - Monika Diaz reporting from Granbury
10:02p The tornado warning for Dallas County has been canceled. - National Weather Service
10p We're seeing reports of power flashes south of Alvarado, near Grandview. That is an indication that a tornado or high winds are in the area. A tornado warning continues until 10:30 p.m. in Johnson County. Be aware that you may not be able to see an approaching tornado because it can be wrapped in rain. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
9:58p We continue to see a storm intensify in Johnson County around Cleburne and Keene. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
9:49p Jamie Moore of Johnson County Emergency Services says there has been some damage reported to trailer homes southwest of Cleburne, but no injuries yet. "We're urging the public to remain sheltered across Johnson County until the storm moves through." - WFAA
9:47p A tornado warning has been issued for southwestern Ellis, north central Hill and southeastern Johnson counties until 10:30 p.m. - National Weather Service
9:46p Warning sirens are going off in the City of Dallas as a heavy storm moves through downtown toward the northeast.
9:33p Tornado sirens are sounding in Granbury, in Hood County, where damage has already been reported. - WFAA
9:32p A new tornado warning is issued for Dallas County until 10:15 p.m., with circulation reported just south of Cockrell Hill. Take shelter if you are in the vicinity of this storm, which is heading to the northeast at 15 mph. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
9:30p Heavy storm damage is reported at a subdivision in the vicinity of Chaucer Drive and Browning Lane, about 2.7 miles southwest of downtown Cleburne. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
9:20p A one mile-wide tornado is confirmed on the ground near Rio Vista in southern Johnson County. This is about five miles southwest of Cleburne, and the storm is moving toward the northeast. Residents of Cleburne, Keene and Joshua are urged to take cover immediately. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
9:17p There is likely a large tornado with the storm now moving through southern Johnson County, moving east-southeast 15 mph. Storm spotters said they have observed a large wedge tornado near Rio Vista, south of Cleburne. Take cover immediately if you are in this area. - WFAA meteorologist Colleen Coyle
9:15p The tornado warning for Dallas County has now expired. - National Weather Service
9:12p Sirens are blaring along Acton Road in Granbury; traffic is at a standstill as emergency crews move into the area that was hit hardest by tornado damage. - WFAA reporter Monika Diaz in Hood County
9:04p A dangerous storm is moving northeast from Cockrell Hill at 9:13 p.m. It will reach Oak Cliff at 9:25; Dallas at 9:28; Highland Park at 9:35; University Park at 9:36. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
9:02p The American Red Cross says it believes the most storm damage is in Hood, Johnson, Parker, Wise and Montague counties. The organization is ready to begin work with emergency managers overnight to help victims. - American Red Cross
8:59p A new tornado warning is issued for Johnson County until 9:45 p.m. The tornado warning for Tarrant County has been canceled. - National Weather Service
8:54p We're getting our first aerial images from a subdivision on the north side of Lake Granbury. There is a lot of damage in this area and debris can be seen on the ground. Helicopters are being requested to evacuate seriously injured patients, and help is being summoned from neighboring counties. - WFAA photojournalist Gary Ultee in HD Chopper 8
8:50p Emergency sirens are now being heard in Dallas County. - WFAA
8:45p We are now getting reports of some homes in the Rancho Brazos subdivision near Granbury that have been leveled by an apparent tornado, with as many as 40 suffering damage and some people injured. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
8:44p A tornado warning continues for Dallas and Tarrant counties until 9:15 p.m., but we've seen no reports yet of a touchdown in those counties. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
8:43p We see menacing skies along Highway 171 heading toward Granbury, where there are reports of tornado damage. - WFAA reporter Monika Diaz
8:40p Wind gusts up to 60 mph are being reported at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
8:30p A tornado warning is in effect for Tarrant and Dallas counties until 9:15 p.m. - National Weather Service
8:29p The Rancho Brazos subdivision near Granbury is being evacuated after an estimated 40 homes were damaged. Injuries are reported and there is fear of a gas leak. - WFAA
8:24p The tornado threat is increasing near the town of Acton in northeastern Hood County. That storm will be entering northwest Johnson county shortly. - National Weather Service
8:04p We are watching a tornado that appears to be on the ground in the eastern portions of Granbury. Take shelter immediately if you are in the vicinity. A tornado warning is in effect for Tarrant, Wise, Parker, Hood and Johnson counties. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
7:57p HD Chopper 8 is bringing us images of a large storm north of Glen Rose that has produced tornadoes on the ground in Hood County. A severe thunderstorm warning is issued for Parker and Tarrant counties until 9 p.m. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
7:55p On westbound Interstate 20 near Belt Line Road in Dallas, we're seeing heavy rain and lots of lightning. - WFAA reporter Teresa Woodard
7:47p We have a cluster of super cell thunderstorms to the west of Dallas-Fort Worth. Take shelter if you live in Granbury, because there's a thunderstorm that is showing signs of rotation. Another thunderstorm is passing through Weatherford in the direction of Tarrant County. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
7:41p A tornado warning has been issued for Hood County until 8:30 p.m. - National Weather Service
7:38p There are reports of tornado damage in Millsap in western Parker County, where a tornado warning is in effect until 8 p.m. The storm is moving to the east at 20 mph. It is forecast to arrive in Aledo at 7:52; Benborook at 8:20; White Settlement at 8:22; Westover Hills at 8:30. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
7:37p Circulation is tightening on the storm near Alvord in northeast Wise County. Persons in this area should take shelter immediately. - National Weather Service
7:23p A dangerous storm is moving through Parker County, headed toward Weatherford and Tarrant County. We have received a photograph of a tornado near Millsap in far western Parker County. To the north, we're watching a thunderstorm in northern Wise and southern Montague County. It continues to produce large hail and damaging winds, targeting Sanger at 8:08. All of North Texas remains under a tornado watch until 1 a.m. Thursday. - Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus