Tornadoes, storms kill 11 in Texas; floods in Missouri turn deadly

Posted at 3:47 AM, Dec 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-27 03:47:23-05

(CNN) — Crews were busy Sunday scouring debris for possible storm victims and assessing the damage in North Texas, following the fatal storms and tornadoes that ripped through Dallas suburbs Saturday evening.

The National Weather Service in Dallas-Fort Worth determined Sunday that the destruction left behind in hard-hit Garland was the work of an EF-4 tornado, which typically has wind gusts of between 166 and 200 mph.

The agency also said the damage left behind in nearby Rowlett was from a tornado that was at least EF-3, which have gusts of between 136 and 165 mph.

An EF-2 tornado struck Copeville, northeast of Dallas, the National Weather Service said.

At least 11 people died in the severe weather that barreled through the region, with Garland suffering the most casualties, authorities said.

Eight of the deaths were in Garland, Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said Sunday morning. Fifteen people were hurt and 600 structures were damaged.

Another three deaths were reported in Collin County, said Lt. Chris Havey, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. Two of the deaths were in the city of Copeville, CNN affilate KRLD reported, and an infant died in Blue Ridge.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in Austin declared a disaster in four counties, including Dallas County, which covers Garland, and Rockwall County, which covers Rowlett.

Collin and Ellis counties were also declared a disaster. The Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service said there was an unconfirmed report of a tornado in eastern Ellis.

Severe weather moves east

Six people died in flash floods on rural Missouri roads overnight, Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long said Sunday, as a result of the same storm system that hit Texas.

Rising flood waters carried away two vehicles in separate incidents. Two adults were in one vehicle and at least four were in the other, Long said.

“Streams turn into rivers, and people sometimes don’t see the road has flooded over when they are driving at night,” Long said.

Praying under a mattress

In some neighborhoods in Garland, the storms ripped facades off houses, leaving gaping holes. Cars that had been in driveways ended up inside homes after the tornado barreled through, witnesses said.

Officials said earlier that five of the deaths were related to vehicles hit by a tornado in southeast Garland.

Garland resident Pat McMillian said the tornado left neighborhoods in darkness.

“All I heard was the roaring of the tornado, and my mom told us to get in the bathroom,” McMillian said. “Then we went across the hall to make sure everyone was OK. The church across the street was destroyed.”

Afterward, they left their house and sought shelter elsewhere.

“We are in our car now, and I’m not sure where we are going to go,” McMillian added. “It’s extremely hot, and there is no power.”

Lafayette Griffin and his family hid under a mattress and prayed as the tornado hit.

“It was terrifying. It was terrifying,” he said. “They didn’t know if they were going to make it.”

More extreme weather to come

Other parts of Texas were dealing with strong winds and precipitation, the weather service said.

And more extreme weather is forecast for Sunday, with a frigid air mass from Canada bringing a nasty mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain from west Texas to New Mexico.

“By Sunday morning, the snow, sleet and freezing rain will expand northeast across the southern Plains,” the National Weather Service said.

“Heavy snowfall amounts of 10 to 18 inches are forecast through Sunday evening across much of western/northwestern Texas, with 18 to 24 inches forecast across portions of New Mexico.”

As of late Sunday morning, people in some parts of New Mexico had already seen more than 16 inches of snow fall with drifts as high as 8 feet, making roads impassable in several counties, according to the governor’s office.

Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency Sunday in response to the snowstorm.

In addition to snow, icy conditions and strong winds are expected from central Oklahoma up into Kansas, making the roads dangerous for driving.

In Oklahoma, crews were busy treating highways and bridges with salt and sand, according to Oklahoma’s Department of Energy Management. As of late Sunday morning, there were at least 8,000 power outages around the state, with the most being in Lawton, about 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

Minnesota accident

The same storm system also caused problems to the north.

In Minnesota, four people died in a weather-related car accident in Aitkin County, State Trooper Lt. Tiffani Nielson said.

The accident was one of more than 200 that happened on snow-covered roads on Saturday, she said.