Texas cleans up after twisters, snow and ice

2015-12-29 14:44
Debris rests on a car in front of a damaged home in Rowlett, Texas after deadly tornadoes hit the area. (J.M. McCarthy, AP)

Debris rests on a car in front of a damaged home in Rowlett, Texas after deadly tornadoes hit the area. (J.M. McCarthy, AP)

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Garland - The storm system that spawned deadly tornadoes in Texas over the weekend brought heavy snow, ice and blustery winds to several states in the nation's midsection, as well as heavy rain in already water-logged areas where flooding has already been blamed for more than a dozen deaths.

More than 2 100 flights across the US were canceled on Monday - more than half of them at Chicago's two main airports - and 3 700 were delayed, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. A typical day sees about 150 cancellations and 4 000 delays.

At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in the tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area on Saturday. Snow from New Mexico to the Midwest, plus flooding in Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, added to the succession of severe weather events across the US in the last week that led to about four dozen deaths.

Pounding rainfall

Highways turned icy and treacherous in New Mexico, while Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency after blizzard conditions affected parts of the state and heavy rains fell.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said the body of a 22-year-old man was recovered in northern Oklahoma but a second man, the lead singer of the country-rock band Backroad Anthem, was still missing after the two went duck hunting and their boat capsized. The body of a 36-year-old man who tried to cross a creek in his pickup truck near the town of Arpelar was also recovered Monday afternoon, the patrol said.

Officials in Arkansas said a 31-year-old man died in a storm-related drowning.

Several millimetres of rain caused flooding in Illinois and Missouri, where Gov Jay Nixon also declared a state of emergency. Nixon says the state's death toll from days of pounding rainfall has risen to 10 and he expects that number to grow.

The Mississippi River neared a potential record crest, after an unusual amount of late-fall rain had the river already high before torrential downpours.

Mississippi Gov Phil Bryant said on Monday the state was seeking a federal disaster declaration for some or all of the seven counties hit by a tornado last week. Authorities in Georgia said they recovered the body of a man whose car was swept away when floodwaters overtook it.

Scale of destruction

The National Weather Service has said an EF-4 tornado, which is the second-most powerful with winds up to more than 320km/h, hit Garland. Eight people died there, 15 were injured and more than 600 structures, mostly single-family homes, were damaged.

"I've never seen anything like this...with this scale of destruction," said Garland Police Chief Mitch Bates.

He said authorities believe all eight of the tornado victims there, which included a 1-year-old, died when their vehicles were thrown from overpasses in the area of Interstate 30 and the George Bush Turnpike, a major route in the region.

With rain all day on Sunday keeping people away, residents of Garland worked on a dreary and frigid Monday to salvage what they could, with the American Red Cross distributing items like tarps, rakes and work gloves to help them.

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