By CHRIS AGEE
An estimated 10 tornados touched down across North Texas Wednesday night with reports of softball-sized hail throughout Palo Pinto County.
At least six people are confirmed dead in Granbury as a result of the most significant twister. Forecasters said Thursday tornados in the same storm system hit Cleburne and Millsap.
Damage in Mineral Wells was significant but not as extensive as in some surrounding communities.
According to a Mineral Wells police spokesperson, officers responded to a number of minor accidents and damaged power lines, though the aftermath is less severe than the last major hailstorm about five years ago.
However, businesses in the downtown area lost their roofs to the huge hailstones.
Mineral Wells Fire/EMS reports indicate three power lines were knocked down within about a 10-minute period near 6:30 p.m.
Numerous police and city vehicles were damaged and cars throughout the city now bear broken windshields, deep dents and other evidence of the storm.
A Walmart associate confirmed the retailer was closed between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 10:30 a.m. Thursday to clean up water and debris caused when hail damaged a number of skylights.
“It was a mess,” said Jim Vines, who said he was caught – along with a number of young Pitch, Hit and Run participants – outside during the height of the devastating weather.
“We met at the city park to get a picture taken,” he said. “Everybody was showing up when this hail hit.”
Though the group photograph was cancelled, he said, the young athletes left with lasting memories, nonetheless.
The group quickly sought shelter and waited out the storm, he explained, adding they emerged to find significant property damage.
“We got underneath the gazebo there and we were confined to that space,” Vines recalled. “There was a lady [with a] brand new, five-day-old Cadillac who lost her windshield, back window, and sunroof.”
Such damage was common as locals assessed their property Thursday morning. Vines said his home is among many in Mineral Wells that will require a new roof, noting his truck was also significantly damaged.
Palo Pinto County Emergency Management Coordinator Buddy Harwell said he received few major damage reports, noting one home in the 1900 block of Millsap Highway was “totally demolished.”
The unoccupied mobile home did not have functioning utilities at the time of the storm, he added, and there were no injuries associated.
“That’s the only major damage reported to me,” he said, “and all the debris stayed on the guy’s property.”
Though there continue to be widespread reports of vehicles and homes damaged throughout the community, Harwell said he is not aware of any deaths or injuries as a result of the storm.
Tornados were spotted as close as Millsap Wednesday evening.
Tom and Lorna Neel live on Farm-to-Market Road 3028 and said their home was somehow spared the twister’s destruction. Their neighbors’ homes on either side, though, were hit head-on, resulting in major property damage.
“It went around our house,” Lorna Neel said, “so all our trees around the house are chopped off.”
As for their neighbors, she said, “Their houses are destroyed.”
Echoing the sentiments of those across the region and beyond, she said her thoughts are with those affected, though she said there is no evidence anyone was injured during the storm.
“We have a horse ranch and all the horses are fine,” she added. “The only damage I had in the arena was some skylights. We lost some outbuildings.”
Tom Neel was at home during the tornado and explained he and his guests were able to wait out the severe weather inside.
“We ran into the house,” he said. “I just saw a bunch of tree limbs go by. South of us, before it hit, we could see some debris flying through the air.”
Gov. Rick Perry expressed concern for those affected and promised the state’s support Thursday.
Saying he is saddened by the deaths, Perry added the State Operations Center remains in the area to monitor the situation.
Preliminary reports show the Granbury twister was likely an F4 grade – the second-highest ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Winds were believed to reach up to 200 miles per hour.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.