By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Wednesday storms brought negligible issues to Cooke County, with more dire effects experienced to the south.
The cities of Granbury and Cleburne took the storm’s heaviest hit — a 10-tornado system with winds up to 200 miles per hour that claimed at least six lives and cut power in more than 15,000 Metroplex homes.
But local county officials said they observed few problems in their jurisidictions aside from heavy rainfall and a few fallen trees in precincts 2 and 3.
“Nothing,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Leon Klement. “We didn’t have any calls in for trees. Rainfall was up to an inch and there was a lot of cloud rotation that people saw, but other than that, nothing.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Al Smith cited tree-swept areas on county roads 337, 328 and 348 following high winds, plus two inches of rainfall in southern Cooke County. Precinct 2 Commissioner B.C. Lemons cited roughly the same amount of minor havoc, adding that a mobile home on Hockley Creek Road sustained severe damage on one end.
Power problems were also minor. ONCOR Electric Delivery Area Manager Sabrina Taylor said power outages in the Gainesville service area were minimal, though some Gainesville ONCOR crews are scheduled to assist the more severely affected customer base in Hood and Parker counties.
“At the height of the storm, we might have had 10 customers who were out,” Taylor said. “But with all the vegetation management work we’ve done in the Gainesville area in the past couple years, it’s helped so much with keeping outages low during storms like this.”
Tornado reports from the Associated Press
The National Weather Service (NWS) said the preliminary storm estimate for Wednesday night's tornado in Granbury was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. That means the storm carried wind speeds of 166 mph to 200 mph. The NWS believes 10 tornadoes raked North Texas in a violent system, including the one in Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Other tornadoes damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.
Forecast Jesse Moore says NWS teams traveled to the affected cities Thursday to survey the damage and speak with emergency management officials.
He says more than one tornado might have touched down in various areas. In Granbury, the worst-hit city, a tornado tore through two neighborhoods around 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Resident Elizabeth Tovar said fist-sized hail heralded the tornado's arrival and prompted her and her family to hide in their bathroom.
“We were all, like, hugging in the bathtub and that's when it started happening. I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was going,” Tovar said. “We looked up and ... the whole ceiling was gone."
The powerful storm crushed buildings as it tore through the area, leaving some as just piles of planks and rubble. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, fences flattened. Behind one house, a detached garage was stripped of most of its aluminum siding, the door caved in and the roof torn off. A tree behind the house was stripped of its branches and a vacant doublewide mobile home on an adjoining lot was torn apart.
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds described the devastating aftermath and the hunt for bodies in Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
“Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses," Deeds said. "There was a report that two of these people that they found were not even near their homes. So we're going to have to search the area out there."
Seven people remain unaccounted and authorities hope they are all staying with family or friends, Deeds said at a Thursday morning news conference. Emergency responders were combing the area and worked to identify the six adults whose remains were found, he said, adding that 37 injured people were treated at hospitals.
Utility officials said about 20,000 homes and businesses were without power early Thursday.
Another tornado that storm spotters told the National Weather Service was a mile wide tore through Cleburne, a courthouse city of about 30,000 about 25 miles southeast of Granbury. Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain said early Thursday that no one was killed or seriously hurt, although seven people suffered minor injuries. He estimated that dozens of homes were damaged and declared a local disaster.
In one neighborhood, a trucking company trailer that had been parked on the street was picked up and dropped onto a nearby car and garage.
Another tornado hit the small town of Millsap, about 40 miles west of Fort Worth. Parker County Judge Mark Kelley said roof damage was reported to several houses and a barn was destroyed, but no injuries were cited.
Hail as large as grapefruit also pelted the area around Mineral Wells on Wednesday evening. A police dispatcher reported only minor damage.
Deeds said around midnight that 14 people were still missing in his area but Granbury Mayor Pro Tem Nin Hulett told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning that he believed most residents had been accounted for.