UPDATED Storm Notebook: Everything you need to know about East Texas tornadoes

Published on Monday, 1 May 2017 18:52 - Written by Staff reports

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The National Weather Service in Fort Worth and Shreveport confirmed seven tornadoes hit the East Texas region on Saturday.

Meteorologist Daniel Huckaby, on Sunday, said some of those may have been discontinuous and may eventually be classified as separate tornadoes. More information will be available as teams continue to survey the area. 

Those crews were on the ground surveying damage on Monday.

Tornado reports began just after 4 p.m. Saturday and continued until close to 8 p.m.

The confirmed tornadoes include:

• 4:15 p.m. - Southwest of Grand Saline in Van Zandt County. It was the first tornado reported, and has a ER-0 classification.

• 5:10 p.m. - A tornado east of Canton. This tornado was classified as an EF-0.

• 5:29 to 6:09 p.m. - A long track tornado started south of Eustace and moved up west of Canton. It left significant damage, and currently classified as an EF-4 storm.

• 5:41-7:28 p.m. - Another long track tornado just northeast of Log Cabin that went east of Canton up into Emory initially about 5:41 p.m. The last confirmation was at 7:28 p.m., but the weather service said it probably was not on the ground that entire time and may have had some breaks in southern Van Zandt County. It also left significant damage. The EF-3 tornado had a path of 51 miles.

• At 5:50 p.m. - An EF-0 tornado touched down west of Sulphur Springs and south of Cumby in Hopkins County.  

• At 7:48 p.m. - An EF1 tornado touched down 4 miles northwest of Lindale. The tornado landed west of U.S. Highway 69, uprooted trees and crossed over the highway before it dissipated north of County Road 4118, according to the National Weather Service - Shreveport. The twister reportedly traveled 3 miles, had a width of 570 yards and a maximum wind speed of between 100 and 110 mph. 

• At 7:48 p.m. - An EF1 tornado touched down 2.5 miles east of Mineola. The tornado touched down east of U.S. Highway 69 in Wood County. It moved northeast, crossed U.S. Highway 80, then uprooted several trees before it dissipated about 5 miles north of Lindale. The tornado traveled half a mile, was 190 yards wide with maximum winds of between 100 and 110 mph. 

INJURIES

Rebecca Berkley with East Texas Medical Center said 56 people were treated across all of the medical center’s locations. ETMC Athens treated 36 of those patients.

Two people remained hospitalized in Athens Monday morning in fair condition. 

ETMC Tyler treated nine patients. Four remained hospitalized there by Monday morning - one-critical, one is serious, one is fair and one is in good condition.

ETMC Cedar Creek Lake saw 11 patients and all were treated and released. 

The ETMC Canton clinic had no power and was closed Monday. The nearest clinic for any acute patients is the urgent care in Lindale.

The Christus Trinity Mother Frances campus in Tyler took in 10 patients. None had citical injuries, according to the hospital.

Christus Trinity Mother Frances has reopened  HealthPark - Canton.

The facility was without power could not treat patients. Power was restored Monday, and the facility is now taking patients. 

 

CLOSED ROADS

Two Smith County roads were expected to remain closed until Tuesday afternoon due to storm damage.

Those include County Road 4119, between County Road 452 and County Road 431, in northwest Smith County, according tot the county’s Twitter page. The road is closed is closed due to downed trees. Road and Bridge crews were expected to begin clearing Tuesday

County Road 452, between County Road 4419 and U.S. Highway 69, was also closed but expected to reopen to traffic by Tuesday afternoon.

POWER & CELL OUTAGES

As of Monday, most of the power was restored to the areas hit by storms.

Oncor reported more than 4,500 customers were without power late Sunday morning, and officials said as many as 14,000 had been impacted. 

About 40 crews from around Texas were arriving to restore electricity and repair major transmission towers, which toppled in the storm.

“We had more than typical broken poles and downed wires,” said Charles Hill, Oncor regional operations manager. “We have a major part of our transmission grid - 25 steel towers and about 10 of the wooden frame towers - on the ground. That was our biggest issue. Those typically go across county and in some pretty inaccessible areas.”

Hill said crews were at the regional command post as early at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and continued working through Monday evening. No Oncor crew members were injured while working to restore power.

“We thank our customers and employees -Customers for their patience and employees for their hard work and safety,” Hill said.

As far as utilities, Trinity Valley Electric Coop has major transmission line damage, more than initially expected, so customers likely will not get electricity back until Wednesday. Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett said power has been restored in Canton, and the city no longer is in water conservation mode.

Cellphone service was limited in the affected areas as of Monday. Verizon set up post at the Canton ISD Junior High School, where they provided phone chargers, a Wi-Fi hotspot and free phone calls for first responders and others impacted by the storms. 

SCHOOLS

Canton ISD will be closed on Tuesday, according to its Twitter account. The Academic Awards Ceremony scheduled for Tuesday night has been postponed. 

Fruitvale ISD canceled school for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Van ISD,Wills Point, Eustace and Rains ISD will resume classes on Tuesday.

Martin's Mill ISD will have school on Tuesday, but bus times arrival may vary based on alternate routes. The school has water but is under a boil water notice on Tuesday. drinking water will be provided to the school, but students also are welcome to bring their own. 

VOLUNTEERS DELAYED FOR NOW

Emergency crews in Van Zandt County said there would be a need for volunteers, but not yet.

Crews are still assessing the damage to determine what is needed.

According to the Canton Fire and Rescue page, civilian volunteers are not needed.

“We are unable to utilize civilian help, due to safety concerns within the effect area,” the post reads.

When volunteers are needed, it will be posted on that same page: 

Donations were being taken at the Canton First United Methodist Church, 206 Buffalo St., but no more are needed at this time.

“At this point we have received such a tremendous outpouring of support from East Texas in food, water and other items we can no longer receive items at this time,” the church posted on its Facebook page.

The church is also operating as a shelter and a base for Mercy Chefs, a Virginia-based nonprofit which provides meals to victims of disasters.

The American Red Cross is on the ground helping victims, and Samaritan’s Purse is a faith-based North Carolina nonprofit has two directors in Van Zandt County to assess if it will also come in to render aid.

In a press conference Sunday, Governor Greg Abbott said money is the most effective donation.

As of Monday afternoon, officials had not specified how or to what entity people should donate. 

SHELTERS

American Red Cross volunteers continued disaster response Sunday and continued to operate two shelters:

• First Methodist Church Life Center, 600 S. Buffalo St., Canton

• Emory Civic Center, 329 N. Texas St., Emory

The Red Cross has also provided meals for those impacted at these two locations.

Those shelters will remain open at least through Wednesday, said Tammy Prater, executive director of the East Texas branch of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross will give 24 hours notice before closing any shelter, she said.

Not many people have stayed in the shelters, but they are serving as a base to get a hot meal and supplies.

“East Texas has taken their neighbors in,” she said. “We are aren’t done with damage assessment, but at this point we have at least 100 homes that are majorly destroyed - that people can’t live in - but people aren’t staying in our shelters.”

The Red Cross began sending out cleanup crews on Monday with trucks of shovels and rakes. 

Red Cross began its damage assessment Sunday and anticipates it will be at least Tuesday until it's complete.

HOW TO HELP

By the end of Monday, affected residents began to pick up their pieces and many East Texans were looking for ways to help - from collecting and donating water, to sending meals to badly hit areas.

The most effective way to help victims of tornadoes in Van Zandt and other counties is with money.

Emergency officials said they have run out of storage place for donations and are not ready for civilian volunteers to physically help with cleanup efforts.

A fund was set up Monday to directly help the victims of the tornado.

Donations can be made at First State Bank of Ben Wheeler, Canton Texas Branch in the Van Zandt County Tornado Relief Fund account. The account number is 4413270.

Donations can also be made to the American Red Cross. Donations can be made online at or by phone by calling 1-800-435-7669. Donations can also be made to any of the local Red Cross chapters.

Monetary donations are typically more effective for the nonprofit because it has bulk buying power, Ms. Prater said.

The public is encouraged to follow the Van Zandt County Fire Marshall/Emergency Management page on Facebook to stay updated about debris removal, volunteering and donations.

Donations can be made to the American Red Cross Serving East Texas Disaster relief at 1-800-RED-CROSS.

RESPONSE FOR PETS

Nicolas Pet Haven and Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team are working to collect misplaced animals and treat injured ones.

Nicolas Pet Haven set up a site to take misplaced animals at the Sears Homestore in Canton, 1190 Trade Days Blvd., said Cindy Nash with the organization.

Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team set up a mobile unit in the Canton Junior High Parking lot, 1115 S Buffalo St.

The Veterinary Emergency Team provided triage for small animals and had the ability to deploy to where large animals may be hurt or stranded. 

Uninjured pets or those with minor injuries can be taken to Nicolas Pet Haven. Pets will be transferred to the Spence and White Veterinary Hospital, 12901 Texas Highway 155, Ms. Nash said.

Ms. Nash said the organization could use donations of pet food, which can be dropped off at the site in Canton or at Spence’s vet hospital. They also need animal kennels, particularly ones that will fit large dogs.

Monetary donations also are welcome to help offset vet bills for injured animals.

Volunteers also are needed to help transport animals.

Volunteers can connect with the organization through Ms. Nash, 903-312-7585 or through the organization’s Facebook page. Ms. Nash asked that volunteers be patient. The group received over 100 messages on Sunday.

Monetary donations can be made through Paypal at .

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Animal Health Commission have guidelines for people who have dead livestock and other large animals on their property. Call TCEQ at  or visit   

SMITH COUNTY RESPONSE

Smith County was among the agencies to help in the rescue and recovery efforts, but a majority of the crews had pulled out as of Monday afternoon.

Responders set up the Smith County Volunteer Fireman’s Association command trailer as an emergency command unit.

Smith County Fire Marshal Connie McCoy-Wasson said smith county crews assisted with search and rescue, but only had a few crews left in the area as on Monday. The county's emergency response trailer remained as a command post.

The Smith County Sheriff’s Office dispatched five units, with four deputies and a supervisor who are helping with the continued rescue and recovery in the Canton and Fruitvale areas. As of Monday afternoon, two remained.

“We are committed to supplying assets to this operation as long as they are needed,” Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Sunday. 

SEVERE WEATHER CONTINUES NORTH

After hitting East Texas, storms continued through the night Saturday traveling east across Texas and into the neighboring states, hitting Louisiana and Arkansas, then Mississippi, Alabama and western Georgia, before dissipating.

In addition to the Texas tornadoes, there were tornadoes in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas.

The remaining threat associated with this system is in the northeast - upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio - where severe thunderstorms are forecast, but the meteorologists are not expecting widespread tornadoes. The storms killed at least 13 people by tornadoes or flooding.

- LouAnna Campbell, Jacque Hilburn-Simmons, Faith Harper and Emily Guevara contributed to this report.