May 16, 2013

Deadly Texas tornadoes packed winds up to 200 mph

A suburb where Habitat for Humanity spent years building homes is hardest hit by one tornado.

By Angela K. Brown and Jamie Stengle / The Associated Press

GRANBURY, Texas - Habitat for Humanity spent years in a North Texas suburb, helping build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during an outbreak of 10 tornadoes Wednesday night that killed six people and injured dozens.

Rescue worker combs through debris
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A rescue worker searches through debris Thursday after a tornado swept through the town of Granbury, Texas, late Wednesday. At least six people were killed and dozens injured as tornadoes ripped through a stretch of Texas near the Dallas-Fort Worth area.


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Pete Alaniz looks for items to salvage Thursday after a tornado hit his home in Cleburne, Texas. His family of four and three dogs hid in a closet while the tornado destroyed his home. A rash of tornadoes slammed into several small communities in North Texas overnight, leaving at least six people dead, dozens more injured and hundreds homeless.

The Associated Press / The Dallas Morning News / Michael Ainsworth

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On Thursday, authorities combed through debris in Granbury for roughly half-dozen still missing, while residents awaited the chance to see what was left of their homes. Witnesses described the two badly hit neighborhoods as unrecognizable, with homes ripped from foundations and others merely rubble.

The National Weather Service's preliminary estimate was that the Granbury tornado had wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph. Other tornadoes spawned from the violent spring storm damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.

Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage.

Hood County Commissioner Steve Berry said Thursday he couldn't tell one street from another in the Rancho Brazos Estates neighborhood because of the destruction. Half of one home was torn away while the other half was still standing, glasses and vases intact on shelves. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, and fences were flattened. Sheet metal could be seen hanging from utility wires.

The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. An EF-5 is the most severe.

Of the 110 homes there, 61 of them were built over the years by Habitat for Humanity, according to Gage Yeager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth. Yeager said Thursday that 14 of the Habitat homes were destroyed, 58 damaged and three appeared undamaged.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bill Jackson said the Habitat homes, built primarily for low-income people, were insured and can be rebuilt.

But that doesn't alleviate the pain felt by fellow volunteer Elsie Tallant, who helped serve lunch every weekend to those building the homes and those who were going to move in.

"I tell you, it has just broken my heart," she said, noting she'd gotten to know the people who had waited for years to become homeowners. "We were going to dedicate a house this weekend, and her home was destroyed."

Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said Thursday that two of the dead were women and four were men; one man and one woman were in their 80s.

"Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses," Deeds said. Six or seven people have not been accounted for, he said at a news conference.

"I'm very confident we'll find those people alive and well," Deeds said, adding that 37 injured people were treated at hospitals. "We're going to keep looking. We're not going to give up until every piece of debris is turned over."

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Additional Photos

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A trucking company trailer landed on a car that was parked in front of a home in Cleburne, Texas, after a powerful storm went through Wednesday night.



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