DALLAS – The residents of an assisted living center for military veterans had about half a minute's warning Friday before a tornado struck — not enough time to seek safety or cover, authorities said.
One resident died and three more were injured by flying debris as tornados swept across Texas, destroying as many as 50 homes, sending at least a dozen people to hospitals and forcing President Bush and his wife into an armored vehicle on his Crawford ranch.
"That convalescence center received word, from our understanding, about 30 seconds before the tornado hit them," said Matt Groveton, the emergency management coordinator for Limestone County, about 60 miles east of Crawford near Waco. "Everybody dove to the ground."
More than a dozen people were admitted to Limestone Medical Center in rural Groesbeck with injuries ranging from minor to trauma-type wounds, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Emergency personnel hoped to finish searching the area by midday Saturday, said Charles Bratcher, public information officer for Limestone County.
"At this time, there are not any new reports of injuries," said Bratcher, adding that officials saw evidence of two tornadoes skipping through the county.
Officials representing Gov. Rick Perry were expected to meet Saturday with local officials at the county's emergency operations center to decide whether state help is needed in the cleanup and recovery.
Strong winds and heavy rains damaged many structures around the area, Limestone Medical Center spokeswoman Sherald Wood said.
Around Waco, television footage showed split trees and snapped limbs. At least one mobile home in the area was flipped upside down, and tornado sirens went off in several counties.
There were reports of animal carcasses, collapsed barns and damaged roofs. An estimated 25-50 private homes, barns and other structures were destroyed, Groveton said. The Red Cross was working to find temporary housing for those affected.
"Many houses completely imploded," Groveton said. "There was one house about two miles west of Groesbeck that was a pile of rubble and from the rubble we heard screaming children. Me and four women lifted a roof off a 14-year-old boy who was trapped underneath."
After the tornados struck around 2 p.m., emergency workers scoured the county looking for victims. Additional tornado warnings and bad weather hindered the search, and nightfall slowed many emergency personnel, Groveton said.
In Crawford, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush — along with their two Scottish terriers —were driven to a tornado shelter on the ranch. They sat inside the armored vehicle until the weather cleared and were never moved into the shelter, deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said.
About 14,000 TXU customers in North, East and Central Texas were without power Friday night, said TXU Electric Delivery spokeswoman Carol Peters.