Tornadoes rip through Texas, killing four

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The Independent US

Two tornadoes carved paths of destruction through the Fort Worth area overnight shattering windows in high-rise buildings, overturning cars and uprooting trees. At least four people were killed and more than 100 injured.

City officials urged people who work downtown to stay home on Wednesday. Firefighters planned to continue their floor-by-floor work at daybreak.

"We have a number of high-rise buildings that have sustained heavy damage," said Lt. Kent Worley, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department. "They looked like they did not have a single pane of glass left in them."

Worley said two people died in one of the tornadoes. One victim was inside a building that collapsed, and another was hit by flying debris.

Strong winds blew two other people from their car into the Trinity River. Worley said their bodies had not been found and they were presumed dead.

The manager of a popular restaurant on the top floor of the 35-story Bank One building said his business was destroyed.

"Imagine a large bomb going off," Sean Finley said. "It got pretty hectic in here."

Patrons and employees had to go down 35 flights of stairs to safety.

Based on reports from tornado spotters, Fire Chief Larry McMillen said, the storm spawned two tornadoes. One took a northerly route, while the second moved southeast through downtown.

The tornadoes hit shortly after 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday amid severe thunderstorms that were accompanied by torrential rains, softball-sized hail and strong winds.

By early Wednesday, virtually all of those injured in the storms had been treated and released from area hospitals. Of the six who remained in hospitals, three were in critical condition.

"It's somewhat of a miracle that there aren't more injuries than we've found out about so far," Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr said at a news conference with other city officials.

Texas Electric and Gas reported about 30,000 customers were without power. Fort Worth is a city of about 480,000 people, 30 miles west of Dallas.

At the downtown Renaissance Worthington Hotel, windows were broken out in about 12 guest rooms and the public area, manager Bob Jameson said.

Robert and Wendi Sparlins were eating dinner downtown to celebrate their second anniversary on Tuesday.

"The windows starting popping, people were running trying to get under the table," Robert Sparlins said. "I saw a chair in the straight line winds going down the street."

Katrina Weston of Arlington, just east of Fort Worth, told WFAA-TV that when she opened the door of her house, she saw the storm blowing shingles off her roof.

"We have no back fence at all, it literally wiped paint off the back of the house," she said. "There are sirens everywhere and we have no power."

One side of the Calvary Cathedral International suffered major damage. Pastor Bob Nichols said his damaged church looks like it had been "in a war zone."

"We just know God's going to bring us out stronger," he said.

The storms delayed some flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

"As a precaution, we evacuated the passengers in the Delta terminal to the tunnels," said Harmony Sockman, a spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines in Atlanta. "When everything was safe, we brought everyone back up to the terminal."