Created on Friday, 17 May 2013 Written by DAVID WARREN,Associated Press JAMIE STENGLE,Associated Press
GRANBURY, Texas (AP) — People who were missing in the wake of the destructive tornadoes in North Texas have been found safe, officials said Friday, but they didn't indicate when residents of one hard-hit neighborhood will be allowed to return to survey damage to their homes.
The Hood County Sheriff's Office said the death toll from the violent storm system Wednesday night remains at six and is unlikely to change. Authorities initially said seven people were missing, but that everyone has been accounted for.
Hood County sheriff's spokesman Nathan Stringer said authorities were focusing Friday on a devastated neighborhood in Granbury known as Rancho Brazos Estates, where most of the homes were damaged or destroyed.
Stringer said it isn't known when the community will be safe enough for people to return, but said an informational meeting for residents will be held Saturday morning. Granbury is 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
He said there are at least 100 workers who have descended on Rancho Brazos to restore water service, raise electrical lines and clear debris.
"I can't see them being able to get anyone in the area," Stringer said. "That area is utterly devastated. I was in there for a couple of hours and I didn't see anything untouched. It was one big debris field."
He added that the damage is so extensive that it's unclear where roads begin and end.
Raul Rodriguez was at home Wednesday with his wife and three children when the storm hit.
"I looked out the window and thought, 'It doesn't look good,'" he said.
The 42-year-old auto mechanic has lived in Rancho Brazos for two years in a home built by volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. It was the first home Rodriguez has ever owned.
They took shelter in a hall closet. All he could hear above the storm's din was the sound of every window in his home shattering. After the storm passed, they emerged to find his home damaged but still standing.
"I'm surprised. I can't believe it. My wife was the first person out, and injured people, bloody people, started coming to our house, asking us to call 911," he said.
Habitat for Humanity spent years in the subdivision, helping to build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during the outbreak of 16 tornadoes.
Granbury bore the brunt of the damage. The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. An EF-5 is the most severe, but an EF-4 tornado has wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph.
Another tornado in nearby Cleburne cut a mile-wide path through part of the city Wednesday. The weather service said it was estimated as an EF-3, which has winds between 136 and 165 mph. No deaths or severe injuries were reported from that tornado.
Warren reported from Dallas. Associated Press writers Angela K. Brown in Granbury, Texas, and Diana Heidgerd and Terry Wallace in Dallas; AP videographer John Mone in Granbury; and freelance photographer Mike Fuentes contributed to this report.