The congressman who represents two of the areas hardest hit by tornadoes over the past few days says that the destructive weather hit 600 buildings in one Dallas-area city alone.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) represents Garland and Rowlett; eight of the 11 killed in Texas storms were in Garland, where the extensive property damage also happened.
“The damage in Rowlett primarily that we saw was to a lot of homes, apartment complexes. And a lot of people are still being looked after, treated, a huge number of people injured. It’s a big effort,” Sessions told CNN.
The National Weather Service said a tornado that hit Garland possibly had EF-4 winds hitting 200 mph. Rowlett was hit by an EF-3 tornado with 165 mph winds.
Sessions said the storm “spawned off 11 tornadoes, which was a record since 1927.”
“And here we are in late December, a terribly destructive storm and then, of course, the change of 32 degrees in weather in one day,” he said.
“So what is happening is that these communities — Rowlett, Texas, and Garland, Texas, are — they might be called bedroom communities, but they are cities. Cities of very proud people who are coming together at Christmastime and trying to work for the best interests of their community. There’s still search-and-rescue going on. There’s still people being held out from these areas, because it’s still very, very dangerous.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in Collin, Dallas, Ellis and Rockwall counties.
Sessions said at least “hundreds” of people are displaced in Garland and Rowlett alone.
“And of course, the communities have set up areas where people can go, and churches are going hand-to-hand to help people. But it’s still very dangerous. There’s a lot of debris; there’s still a lot of trees. There’s a lot of the things that would cause injury to children and other people,” he said.
Then the cold came, with five inches of rain. “So it’s kind of like a little bit more misery poured on top of a lot of injury,” the congressman added.
There have been 20 tornado fatalities across the United States this month, the greatest toll for December since 1953, when 49 were killed.
The White House said President Obama called Gov. Abbott from his Hawaii vacation “to receive an update on the severe weather in Texas and to offer the administration’s continued support in the recovery efforts.”
“The president expressed appreciation for the governor’s leadership in responding to this powerful winter storm,” said deputy press secretary Eric Schultz. “The president relayed heartfelt condolences on behalf of himself and the first lady for those who lost their lives and for the many people who lost their homes in the tornadoes over the weekend. The president made clear that he directed his team to closely monitor the situation and work with the governor’s staff to provide whatever assistance may be needed.”