GRANBURY, Texas -- Habitat for Humanity spent years in a North Texas subdivision, helping build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during an outbreak of 13 tornadoes Wednesday night that killed six people and injured dozens.
On Thursday, authorities combed through debris in Granbury, while residents awaited the chance to see what was left of their homes. Witnesses described the two badly hit neighborhoods as unrecognizable, with homes ripped from foundations and others merely rubble.
Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, bore the brunt of the damage. The National Weather Service's preliminary estimate was that tornado had wind speeds between 166 mph and 200 mph. Other tornadoes spawned from the violent spring storm damaged nearby Cleburne and Millsap.
"I tell you, it has just broken my heart," said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Elsie Tallant, who helped serve lunch every weekend to those building homes in a Granbury neighborhood and those poised to become homeowners.
Hood County Commissioner Steve Berry said Thursday that he couldn't tell one street from another in Granbury's Rancho Brazos Estates neighborhood. Half of one home was torn away, the other half still standing, glasses and vases intact on shelves. Trees and debris were scattered across yards, and fences flattened. Sheet metal could be seen hanging from utility wires.
The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. EF-5 is most severe.
Of the homes in the Rancho Brazos Estates, 61 were built by Habitat for Humanity, said Gage Yeager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth. He said most of those were damaged, including at least a dozen destroyed.
Raul Rodriguez was among the lucky ones: His Habitat for Humanity home was still standing. The 42-year-old mechanic rode the storm out in a closet with his wife and three children as he heard the windows shattering outside, but realized their fortune when they emerged to see a heartbreaking scene.
"Injured people, bloody people, started coming to our house, asking us to call 911," said Mr. Rodriguez, who has lived in the neighborhood more than two years. He assessed his own home, finding only shattered windows, lost roof shingles and a collapsed garage. "My neighbors to the right, they lost everything," he said.
Habitat volunteer Bill Jackson said the homes, built primarily for low-income people, were insured and can be rebuilt.
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said Thursday afternoon that two of the dead were women, and four of them men; a man and a woman were in their 80s.
Six or seven people have not been accounted for, he said at a news conference.
Harold Brooks, a meteorologist at the weather service's severe storm lab in Norman, Okla., said May 15 is the latest into the month that the United States has had to wait for its first significant tornadoes of the year.