You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

AU News Top Stories

9 Dead as Tornadoes, Wind and Flooding Extend From Texas to Northeast

The New York Times logoThe New York Times 3 days ago Dave Montgomery and Adeel Hassan

Video by the Associated Press

As a powerful tornado bore down on Saturday, Victor Henry gathered his wife and children together to ride out the storm in the hallway of their home.

“They told us that it was coming our way,” Mr. Henry, 49, said Monday, recalling the moments before the storm hit. “I looked and it was cloudy. It started lifting us up, and my son grabbed my shoulder and said, ‘Daddy,’ and I said, ‘Hold on.’”

The tornado slammed through the heart of a residential area near the small downtown of Franklin, Tex., about 125 miles south of Dallas, leaving blocks of rubble in its wake. It destroyed 55 homes, a church, four businesses, a duplex and part of the local housing authority building, the authorities said. Some people had to be pulled out of damaged dwellings.

Although no deaths were reported in Franklin, the system that swept across the country over the weekend, from Texas to the Northeast, spawned tornadoes and flooding that killed at least nine people, including three children, and left a trail of damaged homes, splintered trees and power outages.

“It has been five or six years since we’ve seen tornadoes of that magnitude at this time of year,” said Scott Overpeck, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in southeast Texas. The service said the storm in Franklin had winds of at least 136 m.p.h.

As salvage crews combed through the destruction under a bright noontime sun on Monday, the savagery inflicted on the Henrys’ home stood out: the center had been demolished, giving the appearance that it was two houses. This was where Mr. Henry, his wife, Connie, and four of their children had hunkered down throughout the ordeal. (Their fifth child was out of town.)

The roof was gone. Pieces of lumber protruded from the windshield of their silver minivan parked outside. “Debris was flying all over,” Mr. Henry recalled.

“After it was over and everything, we kind of got up and, of course, we walked out into what we thought was the living room,” he said. “Instead, we were really standing outside, because there were no walls.”

In all, at least 17 tornadoes blew through Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Ohio over the weekend. The storms also dumped snow on parts of the Midwest and deluged the Northeast with heavy rain before moving out to sea on Monday. Four people died in Texas, two in Louisiana, and one each in Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia.

Two children were killed when a pine tree fell onto their family car during a severe thunderstorm Saturday on a back road in East Texas, near Pollok, about 150 miles southeast of Dallas. Dilynn Creel, 8, and his brother, Jace, 3, both died at the scene. They were with their parents, who were returning home to what they thought would be safety to ride out the storm, said Kirsten Redd, a family friend.

“They were less than 200 yards from their home,” she said on Monday. “A tree fell in front of them and blocked their path. They were going to back up the road a little bit when a second tree fell, on the back of their car.”

Ms. Redd’s son is a second-grade student who has been a friend and a playmate of Dilynn since they were toddlers.

“He was full of smiles, and his smile just lit up a room. His brother was just a spit and image of him,” Ms. Redd said. “There’s a video of Dilynn from Friday for the school’s field day. He was warming up for his egg-on-a-spoon race. He won several different ribbons.”

The large storm system also caused flash floods in Louisiana, where a 13-year-old drowned in a drainage canal that filled with water after flash flooding struck Bawcomville, near Monroe. Separately, one person died when a car was submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun.

Heavy rains and storms raked Mississippi into the night Saturday as the storms moved east. They damaged a roof of a hotel in New Albany, and Mississippi State University’s 21,000 students huddled in basements and hallways as a tornado neared the campus in Starkville.

a person sitting in a tree: Dozens of homes were destroyed by the storm in Franklin. © Loren Elliott for The New York Times Dozens of homes were destroyed by the storm in Franklin. A university spokesman, Sid Salter, said some debris, possibly carried by the tornado, was found on campus, but no injuries were reported, and no buildings were damaged.

In Ohio, a tornado touched down about 5 p.m. on Sunday in Shelby, a town of 10,000 about 90 miles southwest of Cleveland. About a half-dozen homes were damaged, and at least six people were injured.

“If there is a silver lining to the cloud that passed us, was the time, day and location — just a half a mile to the north and our residential neighborhoods would have been devastated,” Lance Combs, the police chief, said on Facebook on Sunday night.

High winds whipped much of the Eastern United States on Sunday, from Ohio to Pennsylvania and from New York south to the Florida Panhandle. In Stafford, Va., a 78-year old woman was killed when a tree fell on her home early Monday.

The same storm system caused some late-season snow, ranging from four to six inches, in Northern Illinois, southwestern Wisconsin and parts of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

By Monday morning, however, the last vestiges of the heavy rainstorms had moved through Boston, and most of the severe weather was pushing off the East Coast. Early morning showers and thunderstorms with brief wind gusts greeted 32,500 participants in the Boston Marathon on race day.

Nearly 200,000 customers were without electricity in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York on Monday, according to

Back in Franklin, in a strange epilogue, the storm also unleashed a hive of bees that swarmed through the area of destroyed homes on Monday morning. Mr. Henry was stung on his upper right eyelid, and a bee got stuck in Mrs. Henry’s hair, stinging her scalp.

More from The New York Times

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon