Wed, 25 Apr 2007 11:04 UTC
EAGLE PASS, Texas - Search teams worked their way through wreckage-strewn neighborhoods in this border town Wednesday after a tornado killed at least 10 people and destroyed two schools and more than 20 homes.
At least of three of the victims died just across the border from Eagle Pass in Piedras Negras, Mexico, said Oscar Murillo, the city's civil protection director.
On the U.S. side, five of the dead were in a mobile home when the storm slammed it against a school building, said Maverick County Judge Jose Aranda. A young girl between 4 and 6 years old, her parents, and two other adult relatives were inside, he said.
Wednesday morning, several mobile homes from the community of about 26,000 residents were missing, officials said. More than 70 people were reported injured in Eagle Pass.
The huge weather system that caused the destruction was plowing through the Midwest on Wednesday after spinning off tornadoes in Oklahoma and Colorado, causing flooding in Iowa and Nebraska and piling snow more than a foot deep in the Rockies.
The tornado that struck the rural Rosita Valley area outside Eagle Pass destroyed two schools, City Councilman Ramsey English Cantu said Wednesday in an interview with AP Radio. Nobody was in the schools, officials said.
"There was one elementary that was destroyed," he said. "We have behind that a literacy academy for younger individuals that's like a preschool. That's not even standing, just completely leveled."
Teams were still assessing the damage Wednesday morning in the border area about 150 miles south of San Antonio. National Guard units attached to the Border Patrol were assisting local agencies in their door-to-door search and rescue efforts, Fire Chief Rogelio de la Cruz said.
"It's the worst I've seen," said Ricardo Tijerina, 38, who rode out the storm in a house near the school with his six children. He said he watched the storm destroy a mobile home across the street, but all of that home's residents survived.
More than 350 people were in shelters Wednesday morning, Cantu said. "Of course, some also may be staying with relatives. It's just a very, very catastrophic event that has come into this community."
Officials said 76 people were taken to Fort Duncan Medical Center, the city's only hospital. Four were transferred to hospitals in San Antonio and Del Rio in critical condition.
"The hospital in the early stages was being overrun, but they had called in additional doctors and were able to take care of business," Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster said.
Severe thunderstorms also battered other parts of Texas with high wind, flooding rain and hail.
Streets were flooded and roofs peeled off homes in North Texas as the first thunderstorms moved through Tuesday afternoon, followed by another line of severe storms about six hours later. Television footage showed drivers and residents being rescued from flooded cars and suburban neighborhoods.
American Airlines canceled about 200 flights in Dallas, spokesman Billy Sanez said. The airline also diverted about 80 flights bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to other airports, including San Antonio.
Elsewhere, as much as 3.5 inches of rain fell Tuesday on western and central Iowa, washing out roads, flooding basements and causing at least one landslide that buried part of Interstate 29 in Sioux City in trees and mud. No vehicles were driving through the spot when the mudslide happened, officials said.
More than 5 inches of rain fell at Holdrege and Kearney, Neb. "We've got full ditches, water over the roads in some cities, urban areas," said meteorologist Cindy Fay at the
National Weather Service office in Hastings.
In Colorado, six buses carrying at least 60 children were stranded when the storm dropped more than a foot of snow in about two hours, said Rob Finley, assistant fire marshal for El Paso County. The children were taken to shelters in the county about 80 miles south of Denver.
Crews used Sno-Cats to rescue dozens of motorists from snow-covered roads on the plains east of Colorado Springs, said Lt. Clif Northam of the El Paso County sheriff's office. Evergreen, Colo., in the foothills west of Denver, reported 16 inches of snow,
A tornado damaged several buildings near the small town of Wild Horse about 110 miles southeast of Denver, but no injuries were reported, the Cheyenne County Sheriff's Department said. Another twister touched down in north-central Oklahoma but no damages or injuries were reported.
Associated Press writers Matt Joyce and Terry Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.