Sunday 20 August 2017

Nine killed as tornadoes rip through Texas

An event hall in Canton, Texas, suffered major tornado damage Photo: REUTERS/Brandon Wade
An event hall in Canton, Texas, suffered major tornado damage Photo: REUTERS/Brandon Wade

Sonya Hillis

At least nine people including a 10-year-old girl have been killed by tornadoes or flooding in the south and mid-west of the US during a huge storm.

Tornadoes hit several small towns in East Texas, killing four people.

In northwest Arkansas, a 10-year-old girl drowned in Springdale and the body of a woman who disappeared riding an inner tube on Saturday was found in a creek in Eureka Springs. Also, a 65-year-old woman in DeWitt in the eastern part of the state was struck and killed in her home by a falling tree.

Search teams were going door to door yesterday after Saturday's tornadoes flattened homes, uprooted trees and flipped several pickup trucks at a dealership in Canton.

"It is heartbreaking and upsetting to say the least," said Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett.

The storms cut a path of destruction 56km long and 24km wide in Van Zandt County, Mayor Everett said. The largely rural area is about 80km east of Dallas.

The first reports of tornadoes came about 4.45pm on Saturday, but emergency crews were hampered by continuing severe weather, said Judge Don Kirkpatrick, the chief executive for Van Zandt County.

"We'd be out there working and get a report of another tornado on the ground," he said.

Electrical utility Oncor reported more than 4,500 customers were without power yesterday morning. Mayor Everett said 30 crews were working to restore electricity.

The storms rolled through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama yesterday with strong winds causing isolated pockets of damage. In Durant, in central Mississippi, one person died.

Local woman Alexa Haik went to bed on Saturday night expecting just rain, but heard the sirens yesterday morning and turned on the television to see the tornado warning.

She rounded up her pets and hid in a hallway with her family, then was stunned to emerge to see the trees all down in her neighbourhood in Clinton, Mississippi, about 30km west of Jackson. A trip up the road showed how isolated the worst of the storms were. "I really thought when we got out of our neighbourhood, there would be damage everywhere. But our little subdivision was the only one hit," Ms Haik said.

Farther north, the storms were causing massive flooding. Near Clever in south-western Missouri, a man tried to save his 72-year-old wife from floodwaters that swept away their vehicle, but her body was found when the water receded.

One resident, Ernestine Cook, told Dallas television station WFAA she rushed to a storm safety centre just in time.

"It hit so hard, so fast. It just kept moving," she said. "I've never seen anything like it after 22 years of living here."

Irish Independent

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