DALLAS, UNITED STATES: At least eight people were killed in the Dallas area Saturday night when as many as 11 tornadoes swept North Texas, officials said.
The storm tossed cars off freeways and destroyed homes, at least one apartment building and a recreational vehicle park across the suburbs northeast of the city, according to officials with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Garland Police Department. About 50,000 people were without power, officials said.
“There’s been quite an impact in damage and potentially injuries and death,” said Rich Thompson, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service’s storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Five of the deaths were reported at the intersection of Interstate 30 and the President George Bush Turnpike, where a tornado threw cars off an overpass into traffic below, said Officer Joe Harn, the public information officer for the Garland Police Department. Photos posted on Twitter showed a tangle of overturned cars on I-30.
“It’s still a very active scene, and I have not been out there,” Harn said. “We’ve got additional injuries. I don’t have a number and I don’t have the seriousness of those injuries. We’ve got more rain coming in, so we’re trying to get as much done as we can before those rains come in.”
Among the other deaths reported, two were in Copeville and one was in Blue Ridge, north of Dallas, a spokeswoman for the Collin County Sheriff’s Department said.
In Rowlett, which borders Garland, at least three houses had collapsed, and the people who lived in them had not been found, said Detective Cruz Hernandez of the Rowlett Police Department.
Hernandez said that the damage in Rowlett was extensive and that the police were seeking to rescue anyone trapped at home, although the effort was being hampered by the bad weather.
“We can’t get a good sense of it because it’s dark and it’s starting to rain right now,” he said.
Glinda Lewis, owner of the Plantation Place RV Park, which was hit by a tornado, said a number of residents there were injured and taken to hospitals. She said she was home when the tornado blew through, destroying her garage and three cars. Fifteen to 20 recreational vehicles were in the park; she said she had not taken stock of the damage.
Thompson said the worst of the storm system had passed over North Texas by late Saturday, although the storm would continue to cause problems.
“I would think in Dallas proper, the biggest concern might be heavy rain and flooding overnight,” he said. “It’s going to be a heavy band that will linger for some time; it might hamper search and rescue.”
With the fatalities in the Dallas area, the death toll from storms that have rampaged through the South in the past week rose above 20.
Saturday night’s storms were the latest in a string of unusual weather events that have disrupted Christmas week. They included a snowstorm on the Mexico-Texas border that affected playing conditions at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and a blizzard in the Texas Panhandle that officials warned could be of historic proportions.
Thompson said weather systems as violent and varied as those pummeling the South were “more typical of something that you would see in the fall and in the spring” than in the middle of winter.
The crisis in Dallas began in the early evening. Sirens blared downtown, and funnels were reported in at least four suburbs. Travelers at Dallas Love Field airport were warned to stay away from windows, and videos broadcast on Twitter showed theatergoers being evacuated from an AMC movie complex at NorthPark Center, a prominent mall.
In the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and parts of northern New Mexico, the National Weather Service warned of a “crippling blizzard” that could batter the region from Saturday evening until noon Monday. The storm was expected to drop as much as 18 inches of snow and create drifts of 5 to 10 feet, the Weather Service reported.
“It’ll be a mess,” Thompson said.
Mark Conder, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the region had not seen such a storm since 1983, when 16.9 inches of snow fell.
The snow had already begun Saturday afternoon in El Paso, where Washington State University beat the University of Miami, 20-14, in the Sun Bowl as heavy flakes fell.