At Least Six Dead After Tornadoes Tear Through North Texas

A series of tornadoes ripped across north Texas on Wednesday night, killing six people and injuring dozens of others. The strongest tornado hit the city of Granbury with winds approaching 200 mph. Rescue crews were going door-to-door on Thursday searching for survivors.

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It had been a relatively quiet tornado season, until last night, when 10 tornadoes touched down in Texas. The biggest hit Granbury, south of Fort Worth. The twister was a mile wide with winds up to 200 miles per hour. Six people died and dozens more were injured. Rescuers spent today assessing the damage and going house-to-house searching for survivors. BJ Austin of member station KERA reports.

BJ AUSTIN, BYLINE: Standing in the driveway of a house obliterated by the powerful tornado, Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said he knew last night's storms were going to be bad, very bad.

SHERIFF ROGER DEEDS: I've seen a lot over the years, being in emergency management, and now I'm sheriff, so when I saw some of the trees and heard some of the reports, I knew it was going to be as bad as it gets. And it was.

AUSTIN: Deeds says heavy equipment had to be called out to remove large trees that were uprooted and flung across streets before emergency vehicles and ambulances could get into the hardest-hit neighborhood, Rancho Brazos.

It's a modest development, 110 homes. Just 10 of the homes escaped the tornado's fury. Others were reduced to piles of sticks and twisted metal. Everyday things were scattered: a teddy bear next to a mangled car, a crumpled washing machine in a front yard next to an unread newspaper, trees stripped of their leaves. What looks like someone's front door hung in one treetop. The storm draped sheet metal and long strings of fabric over power lines.

It split one house in two - one side rubble, the other untouched. Shelves of knick-knacks intact. Hood County Commissioner Steve Berry calls it utter devastation, and says he doesn't know how anyone made it.

STEVE BERRY: I'm telling you, from what I saw last night, it makes a believer that you better find a place to get in a bathtub, get in a cellar or whatever because some of these people didn't have a chance.

AUSTIN: Katrina King was home with her children, ages three and nine, when the storm hit. It came fast, she says. Hail pounded the windows as she hustled her kids into the bathroom. A moment later, a large tree limb pierced the bathroom roof and rain gushed in. The tree sprinted to a small nearby closet. When it was over, only a small part of the house was standing. But they were all right. King says many of her neighbors were not that fortunate.

KATRINA KING: There was a lady actually, her whole foot was gone. I was holding her foot to her leg. It was bad. There were just people saying help, help. There were people buried. There was just all sticks, piles of sticks, twisted metal. It was gone, flat, gone.

AUSTIN: King says she doesn't know what she'll do now. Anita Foster with the Red Cross says people in this part of Texas are going to need a lot of help.

ANITA FOSTER: As we came into the neighborhood this morning, it was starkly apparent for a number of families that the loss would be everything that they have.

AUSTIN: Foster says the volunteers from the Granbury community are signing up to help in any way they can. Joe Shelnutt is one of them. Two years ago, he lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when killer tornadoes decimated that city. He says he's been spared the brunt of a tornado's wrath twice now.

JOE SHELNUTT: You know, you don't really think it will affect you until, you know, it's already done and over, even though you may have experienced some of this before. You're just glad it didn't happen to you, and hope that you can help out other people.

AUSTIN: That help will be needed. It will take months, if not longer, for people in Granbury to rebuild. For NPR News, I'm BJ Austin.

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