East Texas tornado swarm leaves trail of destruction

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by Staff and Wire Reports

wfaa.com

Posted on January 21, 2010 at 2:04 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 22 at 12:53 AM

VAN ZANDT COUNTY — The National Weather Service has confirmed that at a swarm of at  least five tornadoes damaged parts of East Texas on Wednesday evening.

The tornadoes — near Canton, Sulphur Springs, Larue and Poynor — uprooted trees, shattered homes and toppled trucks. Two injuries were reported near Sulphur Springs.

A survey by the American Red Cross said the storm destroyed 10 homes and damaged as many as 100 others in Van Zandt County.

A weather service storm survey team said the damage path of one tornado started at Highway 64 and FM 859 near Canton and continued up to the Silver Lake area in northeast Van Zandt County.

A church was destroyed in the community of Starr and a number of trees were uprooted in the tornado, which was classified as an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, meaning that it packed winds estimated between 110-120 mph.

Two other tornadoes — also considered EF-2 — were confirmed in Henderson County near LaRue and Poynter.

About 30 buildings were damaged in the Sand Flat community, just east of Canton.

Sheriff's department officials said they are grateful that despite the widespread damage, only one person suffered injuries that required hospitalization. They say the tornado sucked a woman out of her house and she hit a tree. She was treated for head injuries and later released from the hospital.

One of the hardest hit areas was the business district in Canton.

A gas station had its roof blown off. The owner said the winds picked him up and slammed him against the walls of his own business.

Homes were also damaged.

"The house was shaking, it was moving," said Debra Bennett, a resident. "We've cleaned up some things; we've still got a lot to do. There's so much to do but we've got a lot of people coming to help. It will take some time but it will get done."

She is thankful that all the family animals have survived, especially their prized heifers, Kate and Pearl.

"All the metal you see out front came from across the highway. Our neighbor's covered patio is completely gone," said Debbie Conner, another resident.

Crews are working to clear the fallen debris from roads, much of it downed trees, which took power lines with them.

Hundreds of homes are without electricity.

"It is the most devastating tornado or weather event I think we've had. It has affected a whole lot of people," said Chuck Allen, from the Van Zandt County Sheriff's department.

The Red Cross has fanned out across all three counties affected:  Van Zandt, Hopkins and Henderson.

The Red Cross is providing meals and is keeping a shelter open in case anyone is in need.

WFAA-TV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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