17 dead after tornadoes, storms and floods in Texas and Missouri

Posted at 2:23 PM, Dec 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-27 16:37:37-05

By Faith Karimi and Tony Marco


(CNN) — [Breaking news update, posted at 4:19 p.m. ET Sunday]

Six people died in flash floods on rural Missouri roads overnight, according to Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long. Long told CNN a vehicle carrying two adults was carried away by rising flood waters, and in a separate incident, another vehicle carrying at least four people also was swept away by rising flood waters. “Streams turn into rivers, and people sometimes don’t see the road has flooded over when they are driving at night,” Long said.

[Previous story, posted 2:03 p.m. ET Sunday]

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.

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.

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.

In addition to snow, icy conditions and strong winds are expected from central Oklahoma up into Kansas, making the roads dangerous for driving.

In Oklahoma, crews were busy treating highways and bridges with salt and sand, according to an update released by Oklahoma’s Department of Energy Management late Sunday morning. According to the update, there are at least 8,000 power outages around the state, with the most being in Lawton, about 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

Minnesota accident

The deaths from severe weather were not limited to the South.

In Minnesota, four people died in a weather-related car accident in Aitkin County, State Trooper Lt. Tiffani Nielson said.

The accident was one of more than 200 that happened on snow-covered roads on Saturday, she said.

CNN’s Shanna Pavlak, Rachel Aissen, Steve Almasy and Chandler Friedman contributed to this report.

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