Severe Texas tornadoes 'hopscotch' through rural communities, killing six

Severe storm system produced a cluster of tornadoes and grapefruit-size hail that ripped through north Texas rural communities, flattening homes and driving residents to shelter.

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/AP
Lightning strikes from a storm illuminate a home damaged by a tornado on Hyde Park Lane at Country Club Road in Cleburne, Texas, Wednesday night. Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain early Thursday declared a local disaster as schools canceled classes amid the destruction.

Several tornadoes ripped through rural communities in north Texas late Wednesday, leaving at least six people dead, 14 missing, and more than 100 injured, officials said.

A cluster of thunderstorms produced as many as 10 tornadoes in the area, creating winds up to 100 m.p.h. and dropping grapefruit-size hail. Residents in Granbury, Texas, the hardest-hit area, reported that the violent storm flattened homes, threw cars and trailers, and stripped branches off trees.

Elizabeth Tovar hid with her family in their bathroom when fist-size hail balls warned of an imminent tornado.

"We were all, like, hugging in the bathtub and that's when it started happening,” Ms. Tovar said. “I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was going. We looked up and ... the whole ceiling was gone."

After the storm hit Granbury, officials evacuated the town’s Rancho Brazos subdivision, built mostly by Habitat for Humanity, where more than 100 homes were badly hit.

“Most of the neighborhood is heavily damaged to destroyed,” Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Very little is untouched.”

Sheriff Deeds said a tornado warning for the town was issued at 8:10 p.m., so some residents received advance warning. A tornado warning for all of north Texas was issued at 6 p.m. as storm cells developed between Wichita Falls and Fort Worth, weather service meteorologist Mark Fox told the Star-Telegram.

Tornadoes are normal for this season, but this outbreak is the deadliest so far this year.

“Prior to Wednesday, we had only three tornado fatalities this year," meteorologist Chris Dolce told the Weather Channel. "If all the Texas deaths are confirmed to be from a tornado, it would triple the deaths in 2013." 

The Red Cross set up two shelters in Hood County for people displaced from their homes where they could also seek medical care. MedStar Mobile Healthcare sent three ambulances and other supplies from Fort Worth, said spokesman Matt Zavadsky.

Mr. Zavadsky told CNN that he received reports that tornadoes touched down in Hood, Tarrant, Dallas, and Parker counties.

"With these types of tornadoes, they touch down; they lift up; they touch down. They tend to hopscotch," he said. "The darkness doesn't help, but the crews on scene are doing a really good job to try and reach out to the folks who might be trapped or unable to get to a shelter or the triage area."

A mile-wide tornado hit the town of Cleburne, Texas, residents told the National Weather Service. No one was seriously injured and only a few dozen homes were damaged, said Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain early Thursday. He declared a local disaster in the town of 30,000 residents.

• Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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