Texas tornadoes add eight to death toll

Tornadoes swept through the Dallas area, leaving substantial damage and at least eight people dead either from the storm or related traffic accidents, in the latest of a succession of freakish winter weather events across the country.

Debris lies on the ground near a home that was heavily damaged. Picture: AP

The Texas tornadoes that touched down after dark on Saturday night followed days of tumultuous weather in the Southeast including unusual winter tornadoes that left 18 people dead there over the Christmas holiday period.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Anthony Bain in Fort Worth said several tornadoes touched down in the Dallas area, although the full extent of damage would not be known until daylight tomorrow.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The storms left homes had roofs blown away, vehicles mangled or turned upside down, churches damaged, power lines down, natural gas lines burst, trees toppled and debris strewn across neighbourhoods. The damage stretched over about a 40-mile-long area from 20 miles south of Dallas to northeast of the city.

Joe Harn, police spokesman for Garland said five people were killed in vehicle accidents during the massive storm.

Three other people died in Collin County, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas, according to sheriff’s deputy Chris Havey.

The Red Cross said it was setting up shelters for people whose homes were damaged by the storm.

“I think everyone understands now the gravity of what happened,” Anita Foster, spokeswoman for American Red Cross of North Texas, said on WFAA television.

The twisters – accompanied by torrential rain, wind and some hail – were part of a weather system that could produce major flooding from north Texas through eastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, western Arkansas and parts of Missouri.

Passengers waiting for flights at Love Field, a major Dallas airport, were moved away from windows during the storm and flights were temporarily halted from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. A snowstorm accompanied by plunging temperatures was expected to leave up to 16 inches of snow in West Texas and much of New Mexico last night.