At least 11 die from Texas tornadoes; 5 in Illinois flooding
GARLAND, Texas, United States — At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend, while 12 people died in flooding in the Midwest.
It was the latest in a succession of powerful weather events across the country — from heavy snow in New Mexico, west Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle — to flash flooding in parts of the Plains and Midwest. Days of tumultuous weather have led to 42 deaths overall — those in Texas, plus five in Illinois, seven in Missouri and 19 in the Southeast.
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The full extent of damage along a nearly 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch near Dallas was becoming clear Sunday: houses destroyed, vehicles mangled, power lines down and trees toppled. Heavy rain and wind hampered cleanup efforts on Sunday afternoon.
“This is a huge impact on our community and we’re all suffering,” Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said of the community about 20 miles (32 kilometers) 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 (320 kph), hit the community at about 6:45 p.m. Saturday. At least three people who died were found in vehicles, said Barineau.
The destruction in Garland was so overwhelming that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared the city a disaster within mere minutes of seeing the toll firsthand.
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“I don’t declare local disasters lightly,” Jenkins said. “But I looked at the scene for 10 minutes, spoke to the incident commander and then called the lawyers to bring the paperwork.”
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 (266 kph).
Three other people died in Collin County, about 45 miles (72.4 kilometers) 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 his state, the Texas Department of Public Safety in Amarillo strongly discouraged travel throughout the entire Texas Panhandle — a 26-county area covering nearly 26,000 square miles (67,000 square kilometers) — because blowing and drifting snow had made the roads impassable. Interstate 40 west of Amarillo to the New Mexico border was to be closed until Monday morning.
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 (22.5 centimeters) of rain.
Further north, rain caused dangerous driving conditions and flooding in Missouri and Illinois.
Six people died overnight when two separate vehicles drove into flooded roadways in south-central Missouri, Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said, and KYTV reported that authorities recovered the body of a driver Saturday from a creek in the southwest part of the state. Also Saturday, three adults and two children drowned in southern Illinois when the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek.
The death toll in the Southeast linked to severe weather rose to 19 on Sunday when Alabama authorities found the body of a 22-year-old man whose vehicle was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge; a 5-year-old’s body was recovered for that incident Saturday. Ten people have died in Mississippi, and six died in Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.
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