Tornadoes that tore through northern Texas destroyed a wing of a nursing home, ripped roofs off hundreds of homes and sucked up lorry and tractor trailers that were left strewn along roads.
More than a dozen injuries were reported on Tuesday in the Dallas area where residents had been urged to take immediate cover as forecasters issued tornado emergency alerts.
Overturned cars left streets unnavigable and wrecked lorries clogged main roads.
An estimated six to 12 tornadoes touched down in north Texas. Ten people were injured in suburban Dallas, two of them severely, and searches were under way yesterday to find anyone who may have been left trapped. Three people were injured in Arlington, including two residents of a nursing home who were taken to hospital with minor injuries after swirling winds clipped the building.
Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister at the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre, said: “Of course, the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralysed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room. It was terribly loud.”
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport cancelled hundreds of flights and diverted others heading in.
Passengers already in the terminals were handed blankets and hunkered down, as staff kept them from windows, while others headed for cover at nearby hotels.
More than 100 planes suffered hail damage in the accompanying storms.
Most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storm. Yet in Lancaster, TV helicopters panned over exposed homes without roofs and flattened buildings. Broken sheets of plywood blanketed lawns and covered rooftops.
Meteorologists said the storms were the result of a slow-moving storm system centred over northern New Mexico.