Rex C. Curry / AP Photo

Tornadoes in Dallas area kill 11; South’s storm death toll at 30

Tornadoes sweep through Dallas area, increasing death toll

Tornadoes swept through the Dallas area, leaving substantial damage and at least 11 people dead either from the storm or related traffic accidents. The death toll from harsh weather in the southern United States this week is now at least 30.

The National Weather Service also issued flash flood warnings Sunday for sections of eastern, central and southwest Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday. 

Heavy rain has pushed creeks and rivers out of their banks in Missouri, forcing closures of several roadways, including a portion of Interstate 70.

Whiteout conditions and snow drifts have also closed some highways in the Texas Panhandle, while historic snowfall totals are expected in nearby New Mexico.

Parts of Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas, and into Santa Rosa, New Mexico, were shut Sunday. Nearly 10,000 Excel Energy customers, most of them Amarillo, have been without power. High winds are blamed for knocking over utility poles and power lines.

The Texas tornadoes that touched down after dark on Saturday 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.

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

Lt. Pedro Barineau of the police in Garland, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas, said in a Sunday morning news conference that the death toll then stood at eight after a tornado struck there Saturday night.

He said about 600 structures were damaged, the majority of which were single-family homes.

Three other people died in Collin County, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas, according to sheriff's deputy Chris Havey, although the circumstances were not immediately clear.

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. Flights were temporarily halted from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The Dallas Mavericks NBA game was delayed about half an hour because of the storm.

On the other side of Texas, a snowstorm accompanied by plunging temperatures, was expected to leave up to 16 inches of snow in West Texas and much of New Mexico through Sunday evening, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brendon Rubin-Oster in College Park, Maryland.

In the Southeast, the death toll rose on Sunday to 19. Ten people died in Mississippi, and six died in Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.

Flash flooding closed roads across Alabama and trapped motorists in rapidly rising waters, and on Sunday authorities in the state attributed a second death to the severe weather. 

Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers said the body of a 22-year-old man was discovered Sunday morning. That man and a 5-year-old boy were in a vehicle that was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge near Jack, Alabama.

WTVM-TV reports that four individuals from the same vehicle were rescued earlier in the same area.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said 56 injuries were reported. In a statement, Flynn said preliminary damage estimates show 241 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. More than 400 homes in total were affected, he said.

Severe storms are forecast for Sunday night through Monday as a strong cold front pushes through. Tornadoes are possible, and residents are asked to remain alert.

The flooding is the result of heavy downpours that have thrashed the southeastern U.S. since Wednesday, bringing record rainfalls in some areas. Four inches of rain walloped the city of Mobile, Alabama, on Wednesday — smashing the previous record of 2.2 inches set in 1990.

Six people were killed in Tennessee, including three who were found in a car submerged in a creek, according to the Columbia Police Department. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Saturday that authorities were monitoring areas for possible flooding.

One person died in Arkansas, and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.

Better weather was forecast for the Southeast. Temperatures in the eastern third of the country could set numerous records highs Sunday, Rubin-Oster said. Washington, D.C., could see a record daily temperature of 73 degrees; New York City a temperature of 65 degrees — which would break a record of more than 50 years — and Orlando, Florida could tie a record of 86 degrees set in 1921.

The Associated Press

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