Pete Alaniz assesses the damage to the garage of his rental home that was destroyed by a tornado in Cleburne, Texas May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Richard Rodriguez
At least six people were killed and seven were missing after as many as 10 tornadoes ripped through north-central Texas Wednesday evening, leaving a trail of destruction from the worst severe storm outbreak in the United States so far this year.
Authorities warned the death toll could rise from the storms, which struck from early evening to around dusk, flattening homes and uprooting trees across at least four counties near the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The hardest hit area was around Granbury, a town of 8,000 people about 35 miles southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth.
In Hood County, where Granbury is located, spokesman Tye Bell said seven people were still missing and at least 45 injured, most from a single subdivision of homes in the town.
"The main concern is life safety and finding any victims that still need our help," Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said at a press conference on Thursday.
All six of the people confirmed killed were found in Rancho Brazos, a neighborhood of around 110 mostly single family homes on the fringe of Granbury that bore the brunt of the winds, Deeds said.
Video of the area showed homes flattened, power lines down and roads blocked by debris in the area. Bulldozers were clearing roads so people could be moved out of their houses.
MORE STORMS FORECAST
Preliminary reports showed that the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Granbury 26 minutes before the twister struck, according to Mark Wiley, emergency response meteorologist at the agency's Forth Worth office.
This is an unusually long lead time as the average warning time is 10 to 12 minutes, he said.
Wiley said the rating of the deadly tornado would not be determined until later on Thursday, but "it was a strong tornado just based on the damage."
More severe storms could be coming to Texas, parts of Arkansas and northern Louisiana later on Thursday, said Corey Mead, forecaster at NWS Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. But he said the possible tornadoes would be in northeast Texas, not in the area hit on Wednesday night.
Until Wednesday, the tornado season had been unusually mild so far in 2013 after two years of intense activity.
The tornado season in the United States typically starts in the Gulf Coast states in the late winter, and then moves north with the warming weather, peaking around May and trailing off by July.
Several deadly tornadoes have struck in recent years.
In March 2012, at least 39 people were killed in a chain of tornadoes from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. The following month, at least six people were killed by a twister in an Oklahoma town during a weekend outbreak of dozens of twisters across the Great Plains.
In May 2011, a massive tornado struck Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 people and damaging or destroying 7,500 homes.