NORTH TEXAS — Crews were busy Sunday scouring debris for possible storm victims and assessing the damage in North Texas, following the deadly storms and tornadoes that ripped through Dallas suburbs Saturday evening.
The National Weather Service in Dallas-Fort Worth determined Sunday that the destruction left behind in hard-hit Garland was the work of an EF-4 tornado. That’s the second most powerful tornado on the Fujita scale, with winds between 156 and 200 mph.
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) December 27, 2015
The agency also said the damage left behind in nearby Rowlett was from at least an EF-3 tornado with winds between 136 and 155 mph.
— DFW Scanner (@DFWscanner) December 27, 2015
At least 11 people died in the severe weather that barreled through the region, with Garland suffering the most casualties, authorities said.
Lt. Pedro Barineau with the Garland Police Department confirmed Sunday morning that eight people died in the storm that ripped through Garland.
Barineau said 15 people were hurt and 600 structures were damaged.
Three additional deaths were reported in Collin County, said Lt. Chris Havey, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. Havey said officials don’t expect the death toll to rise, but they are sifting through rubble and making sure no victims were overlooked.
Praying under a mattress
In some neighborhoods in Garland, the storms ripped facades off houses, leaving gaping holes. Cars that had been in driveways ended up inside homes after the tornado barreled through, witnesses said.
Officials said earlier that five of the deaths were related to vehicles hit by a tornado in southeast Garland.
Garland resident Pat McMillian said the tornado left neighborhoods in darkness.
“All I heard was the roaring of the tornado, and my mom told us to get in the bathroom,” McMillian said. “Then we went across the hall to make sure everyone was OK. The church across the street was destroyed.”
Afterward, they left their house and sought shelter elsewhere.
“We are in our car now, and I’m not sure where we are going to go,” McMillian added. “It’s extremely hot, and there is no power.”
Lafayette Griffin and his family hid under a mattress and prayed as the tornado hit.
“It was terrifying. It was terrifying,” he said. “They didn’t know if they were going to make it.”
Other areas hit
Law enforcement officials and weather spotters also reported a large tornado near DeSoto, just south of Dallas.
There was also a report of a tornado in eastern Ellis County, the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service said. It was unclear if it was the same tornado.
More extreme weather to come
Other parts of Texas were dealing with strong winds and precipitation, the weather service said.
And more extreme weather is forecast for Sunday, with a frigid air mass from Canada bringing a nasty mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain from west Texas to New Mexico.
“By Sunday morning, the snow, sleet and freezing rain will expand northeast across the southern Plains,” the National Weather Service said.
“Heavy snowfall amounts of 10 to 18 inches are forecast through Sunday evening across much of western/northwestern Texas, with 18 to 24 inches forecast across portions of New Mexico.”
As of late Sunday morning, people in some parts of New Mexico had already seen more than 16 inches of snow fall with drifts as high as 8 feet, making roads impassable in several counties, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency Sunday in response to the snowstorm.