Rice tornado classified as high-end EF-2



Posted on October 25, 2010 at 5:36 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 25 at 7:38 PM

RICE - Four tornadoes touched down Sunday in North Texas, two of which hit just two minutes apart.

The first tornado struck Lone Oak at 5:53 p.m. Several counties south, another tornado touched down at 5:55 p.m. in the town of Rice, located in Navarro County.

The third tornado touched down in Mount Vernon at 6:14 p.m. Sunday, with the fourth touching down at 6:30 p.m. at Mount Pleasant.

The day after the tornadoes, the biggest damage could be seen in Rice. The tornado there was classified as a high-end EF-2 by the National Weather Service, which means it had winds as high as 135 mph.

Looking from above, a path of destruction could be seen where the tornado landed and traveled for seven miles. The width of the path was up to 100 yards wide. The roofs of homes could be seen torn off and debris spread throughout the area.

Eric Meyers, the director of emergency management for Navarro County, captured video while driving. The images showed the massive tornado whipping up debris as Meyers drove through the storm.

"This is probably one of the most terrific experiences and probably one of the most horrifying experiences I've ever been through as far as storm spotting is concerned," Meyers said. "Coupled with emergency management duties and what all we looked at today, it's one of those things that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; but it's one of those things that we don't want to go through again."

Video also captured images of the tornado from inside the Rice Intermediate High School. The school and its athletic field sustained serious damage.

The school, which opened just nine weeks ago, will be closed Tuesday as the damage is assessed. The strength of the tornado was evident with a look of the campus, including a towering light pole that was snapped in two just outside the school.

"You have to go there every day," said Kaitlin Griffin, a student at the school, while looking at the destruction. "It just becomes a second home, and to see something happen to your second home just breaks your heart."

The high school was hit directly by the EF-2 tornado.

People taking shelter within the school Sunday watched as the tornado formed overhead. At that same time, Meyer's cell phone video recorded the tornado as it ripped apart the school's roof.

WFAA meteorologist Pete Delkus and reporter Jonathan Betz contributed to this report