Weather

Tornado cleanup underway in North Texas

Jake Trice looks through the rubble of his third grade classroom at Donald T. Shields Elementary School in Glenn Heights.
Jake Trice looks through the rubble of his third grade classroom at Donald T. Shields Elementary School in Glenn Heights. Star-Telegram

Third-grader Jake Trice sifted through the debris in what was left of his classroom at Donald T. Shields Elementary on Monday.

He held his hard hat under his arm and walked in his rubber boots where a tornado that ripped through the school Saturday night blew out a wall of his classroom.

“I’m looking for my book,” Trice said Monday afternoon, sorting through books, files and furniture along with dozens of teachers, other students and workers.

“I liked this class,” he said. A note on the wall indicated that Mrs. Brynsvold is his teacher.

Jake never found his book.

He was among hundreds of North Texans who were cleaning up Monday at homes, churches and businesses damaged or destroyed by tornadoes on Saturday that killed 11 people, including an infant and a 1-year-old, and injured dozens along a path from Hill County to Collin County.

Teams from the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth continued to assess damage on Monday. The number of confirmed tornadoes stayed at nine.

“We’ve determined that this was a narrow but intense storm that caused a lot of damage,” said Mark Fox, a NWS meteorologist and member of the assessment team that stopped at Shields Elementary on Monday afternoon as they examined damage in Glenn Heights, which straddles the border of Dallas and Ellis counties.

The tornado that hit Garland was the worst, an EF-4, with wind speeds of 166-200 mph. At least 600 structures were damaged. Eight people in vehicles were killed, authorities said.

In Rowlett, an EF-3 tornado with wind speeds up to 165 mph, pounded 101 homes and injured at least 23 people.

The tornado that touched down in Collin County on the east side of Lake Lavon was as an EF-2, with wind speeds up to 135 mph, the weather service experts said. Three people, including a baby, were killed. Almost 100 structures were damaged, the county sheriff’s department reported.

“Most of the damage appears to be concentrated along the [Texas] 78 corridor from Copeville to Blue Ridge,” a news release from the sheriff said.

The tornado in northern Ellis county was an EF-3, Fox’s team said Monday. It damaged at least 152 homes, officials said Monday.

“It was all very horrible, but it could have been a lot worse,” Fox said. “At this school, it was the winter break, it was on Saturday night, and there was no one in the building.”

Dead are identified

On Monday, the Garland police department identified the eight people killed Saturday night, all in vehicles.

They were Timothy Harris, 58, of Greenville; Sharva Monique Sanders, 42, of Fort Worth; Kimberly Lashorn Tippett, 30, of Garland; Kamryn Demetrius Crain, 1, of Garland; Lashondra Mildred Whitaker, 32, no town provided; Cecil Warren Lowrie, 77, of Garland; Petra Ruiz, 27, of Dallas; and Jose Oviedo Juarez, 19, no town provided.

The other three deaths were in Collin County. The sheriff’s department identified the dead as Jerry Lee Brazeal and Jerry Glenn Funderberk Jr., killed when the Copeville tornado hit a convenience store. Also, infant Aleya Santillano was fatally injured when her family’s mobile home was destroyed in Blue Ridge.

Twister hit church, home

On most Saturday nights, pastor Ron Adams, his wife, Cheryl and other members of the Church of the Nazarene, southwest of the elementary school, are in the sanctuary preparing for the Sunday service.

But the Adams’ were in Dallas, getting ready to watch the Dallas Mavericks play the Chicago Bulls.

“Just before the game started, we started getting messages,” Cheryl Adams said Monday. “Someone sent us a photo, and we saw that the sanctuary was gone.”

The Adams left the game before it started to find their church in pieces and their home heavily damaged. Church vans were tossed around like toys. And parts of the church’s steeple landed near Shields Elementary.

“God was watching over us,” Cheryl Adams said Monday.

Tornado numbers

On average, North Texas has about 155 tornadoes per year, most of them in April, May and June.

The most recent deadly North Texas outbreak was in May 2013 when 16 tornadoes touched down, including an EF-4 in the Granbury area that leveled dozens of homes and killed six people.

Before Saturday, the last December tornado in North Texas came on Dec. 29, 2006, when 15 twisters were confirmed, mostly in Johnson County and near Groesbeck, where one person was killed.

Two EF-0 tornadoes touched down in Tarrant County in November — one in north Fort Worth and one in Keller — the fifth and sixth times twisters have been confirmed in that month.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr

How you can help

For Garland, go to garlandtx.recovers.org. The American Red Cross, www.redcross.org and the Salvation Army, salvationarmy.org, also are involved in relief efforts.

The State Bar of Texas has a toll-free line for low-income residents who may need help with issues such as replacing lost documents; landlord-tenant problems; and insurance questions. Call 1-800-504-7030 to find a provider in the area. Questions can be answered in English and Spanish. More information, texasbar.com/disasters and texaslawhelp.org.

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