Midwest storm brings twisters, floods, and it’s not over yet
GARLAND, Texas — As residents of North Texas surveyed the destruction from deadly weekend tornadoes, the storm system that spawned the twisters was bringing winter storm woes to the Midwest and worsening flooding already being blamed for more than a dozen deaths.
At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in the tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage. The storms and flooding in Missouri and Illinois were the latest in a succession of severe weather events across the country that have led to at least 43 deaths in less than a week.
The damage began to come into view Sunday in North Texas, where local officials estimated as many as 1,450 homes were damaged or destroyed. Vehicles were mangled, power lines fell and trees were toppled. Heavy rain, wind and falling temperatures hampered cleanup efforts Sunday afternoon.
“This is a huge impact on our community and we’re all suffering,” Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said of the suburb about 20 miles northeast of Dallas, where eight people died, 15 were injured and about 600 structures, mostly single-family homes, were damaged.
The weather service said an EF-4 tornado, which is the second-most powerful with winds up to more than 200 mph, hit the community at about 6:45 p.m. Saturday.
Natalie Guzman, 33, took photos of her family’s home in a Garland neighborhood. The garage wall had collapsed and the roof fell in. The only part of the house that appeared to be spared was the master bathroom, where her brother-in-law took shelter Saturday night. He was the only one at home and told her he had just enough time to get himself and his dogs into the bathroom.
“It was worse than I thought,” Guzman said, comparing the scene to the photos he had sent Saturday.
In the nearby town of Rowlett, City Manager Brian Funderburk said Sunday morning that 23 people were injured, but that there were no deaths and no reports of missing people. The weather service said damage indicated it was likely an EF-3 tornado, which has winds up to 165 mph.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement Sunday night that as many as 600 homes were damaged in Rowlett.
Homes in the neighborhood that had been searched by emergency responders were marked with a black “X.” In some instances, it looked like homes had been picked up and set back down in a big pile. State troopers blocked off roads, utility crews restored power and people walked around, hushed and dazed.
Three other people died in Collin County, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas, according to sheriff’s deputy Chris Havey, although the circumstances were not immediately clear.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made disaster declarations Sunday for four counties — Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Ellis — and warned that the number of victims could rise.
On the other side of the state, the Department of Public Safety in Amarillo strongly discouraged travel throughout the entire Texas Panhandle — a 26-county area covering nearly 26,000 square miles — because blowing and drifting snow had made the roads impassable. Interstate 40, the main east-west highway across the Panhandle, was almost completely shut down. DPS said only a small section of the highway in Amarillo remained open.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency as there were blizzard conditions and an ice storm warning out west and flood warnings in the east, where one community had received 9 inches of rain. The state Department of Emergency Management said eight storm-related injuries were reported. About 60,000 homes and businesses were without power.
Further north, rain caused dangerous driving conditions and flooding in Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon also declared a state of emergency, and Illinois.
Six people died over the weekend when two separate vehicles drove into flooded roadways in south-central Missouri, Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said. Greene County authorities said two fatalities there were associated with the flooding.
In southern Illinois, authorities said three adults and two children drowned Saturday evening when the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek.
The storm system was moving to the northeast and was expected to bring a mix of snow and ice into the Upper Midwest. Forecasters said parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin could see up to 10 inches of snow.
Also Sunday, the death toll in the Southeast linked to severe weather just before Christmas rose to 19 when Alabama authorities found the body of a 22-year-old man whose vehicle was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge.
Associated Press writers Michael Graczyk in Houston; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; Maria Sudekum in Kansas City, Missouri; Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis; Terry Tang in Phoenix; and Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Atlanta contributed to this report.