Worst hit was the small town of Jarrell, 40 miles north of Austin, where 30 residents were killed in a single housing estate that was literally razed. As well as the shock of so much loss of life, the population was struggling yesterday to digest the sheer extent of the destruction. "It's not there any more," said deputy sheriff RB Raby. "I don't know of anything anyone can do. It's just a flat vacant field".
Such was the power of the tornadoes that even the pavement had been lifted. Fields were scattered with dead cows, telephone lines were snapped and vehicles were overturned.
Ray Westphal described watching as one tornado approached his business in Cedar Park, 25 miles from Jarrell. At first it looked about two inches high, he said, and then suddenly took up all of the horizon. "As it got closer, building tops were flying around. It was picking cars right up in the air, flinging them everywhere".
The storms were the worst to strike Texas for a decade: in 1987, 30 people were killed in Saragosa. Storms that swept through the state in 1953 and in 1902 both left 114 people dead.