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The multitude of relentless storms and tornadoes that claimed four lives in Texas on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2015, has now taken the lives of over 11 people. Authorities are finding the deceased as they carefully go through the rubble and chaos left by the storms, which meteorologists say will continue.
Several tornadoes, coming on the heels of violent storms, twisted their way through Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi last week, claiming 18 lives. Before the week of Dec. 16, when Texas was hit, only 10 deaths had been caused by tornadoes this year, which is the lowest number on record.
Garland, Texas was hit the hardest by Saturday’s twisters. According to Lieutenant Pedro Barineau, eight people were killed and 15 were injured while more than 600 businesses and homes were damaged. He described the scene as utter devastation. Five of the fatalities occurred near I-30 and the George Bush Turnpike, where multiple cars were caught in the severe weather. Vehicles fell as far as 17 feet off of a bridge into traffic on the road below. There were 15 people taken by ambulance from the scene to nearby hospitals. Authorities have stated that the search and rescue efforts are ongoing, but are proving difficult without a break in the storms.
Officer Harn stated to reporters that the scene was still active. There are more injuries, but he does not know how many, nor does he know the conditions of the victims. With more storms on the way, Harn said he wanted to get as much cleared before the mess continues to pile up. Officials are fighting against both time and extreme, relentless weather, which is creating more chaos in Texas.
The Collin County Sheriff’s Office reported that two people and an infant died in Copeville. There have not been any reports of missing people at this time, but authorities are going door-to-door checking in on people.
The Rowlett Police Department reports that, so far, they know of three houses that have collapsed. The people who lived in these homes have not yet been found. According to one official, search and rescue teams are working to free people trapped inside their homes, despite the severe conditions.
Rowlett’s city manager, Brian Funderburk, stated that 23 people were injured by a large tornado that directly hit the city. The city is now on a 24-hour curfew so that the roads will be clear for emergency personnel.
The owner of the Plantation Place R.V. Park was home when a tornado ripped through her garage and three cars. She said multiple residents were taken to area hospitals. There were up to 20 recreational vehicles in the park at the time, but she had not taken stock of the damage to the park.
According to the The National Weather Service, at least 11 tornadoes twisted their way through the Dallas area Saturday. This, however, is only a preliminary count.
A tornado in Ellis County destroyed two churches and several buildings. Ellis County Emergency Manager Stephanie Parker sent out a tweet asking people to stay off the roads if possible.
Over 30 tornado warnings were issued for the North Texas area. The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport delayed flights for an hour. Officials report that 50,000 people in that area are without power.
Currently, the National Weather Service is warning that Texas and Oklahoma could be hit by blizzards that could drop up to 15 inches of snow in the panhandle areas. Accuweather Meteorologist Brett Rathburn reported that strong winds and heavy snow will cause blizzard conditions from Roswell, New Mexico, to Amarillo, Texas. There will be icy road conditions from Sunday through Monday, Dec. 28. These conditions will affect areas in West Central Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. Sunday will bring more thunderstorms and heavy rain to the already weather-torn areas.
As of Sunday, Dec. 27, at 12:35 p.m. CST, the Texas panhandle was experiencing whiteout conditions. Record-breaking snowfall is anticipated for New Mexico.
According to a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, the snowplows are experiencing difficulties keeping up with the snow drifts. The relentless wind continuously blows the snow back almost instantly. Sections of the I-40 west of Amarillo, Texas, into Santa Rosa, New Mexico, have been closed. Amarillo received three inches of snow overnight, but the drifts are three to four feet high. Another four to eight inches of snow is expected with winds up to 50 miles per hour.
Over 10,000 people in that area are without power. The continuous high winds have taken down power lines and utility poles. The relentless Texas storms could create more chaos and destruction.
By Jeanette Smith
Edited by Cathy Milne
USA Today: Death Toll Rises to 11 in Texas
NY Times: Death Toll Rises in Dallas as Storms Sweep South
The Washington Post: The Latest: Snow Drifts Close Highways in Texas Panhandle
Top Image Courtesy of BrianKhoury’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of State Farm’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Snow Inline Image Courtesy of Steven Martin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Storm Inline Image Courtesy of Kelly Delay’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License