4 Dead, Dozens Injured After Tornado Rips Through Van Zandt County

UPDATED | April 30, 2017 5:36 PM

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CANTON (CBSDFW.COM) – A tornado struck Van Zandt County including the east side of Canton, TX Saturday evening. Officials said Sunday a total of four people had died. Officials revised the death toll down from initial reports last night of five dead.

In a Sunday afternoon press conference, officials confirmed the death toll as of 4:00 p.m. to four and that two people are still unaccounted for in the area. No further details were released on the victims.

The National Weather Service confirmed four tornadoes ravaged these parts of North Texas Saturday.

According to the National Weather Service, preliminary reports shows two of the four tornadoes were EF-3 while the other two were EF-0.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott visited Canton to assess the damage and update media on the response of volunteer efforts. He held a press conference at 3:00 p.m. Sunday.

“Today is a difficult day for the people of Canton and the surrounding region,” said Gov. Abbott. “In response to the devastation, I’m confident Texans will come together to rebuild and help their neighbors in need. I would like to express my deepest sorrow to the families of those lost, and thank the first responders for their preparedness and efforts to keep Texans safe.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a statement on his reaction to the deadly tornadoes:

“Yesterday, the strength and spirit of our East Texas community was tested by devastating tornadoes that took the lives of five Texans and injured dozens more. In the communities of Eustace, Caney City and Canton, local officials are leading recovery efforts while first responders rushed into danger, as they do without fail, to help all of those in need. I have been in close contact with the authorities in Van Zandt and Henderson Counties and my office has offered whatever assistance necessary as they respond to this disaster. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives, and with those who were injured yesterday evening. We pray for their quick recovery, and that all of those affected can heal.”

Chopper 11 was over Van Zandt County early Sunday morning as daylight revealed the extent of the damage. From the air, many damaged homes and business could be seen.

chopper 4 Dead, Dozens Injured After Tornado Rips Through Van Zandt County

The East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) in Athens received dozens of patients. The ETMC in Cedar Creek Lake received at least eight patients. One patient was listed as critical in Athens while the rest at these facilities were said to have non-life threatening injuries.

Video Of Tornado

The ETMC in Tyler had four more patients from the Canton tornado.  All of those patients were also said to have non life-threatening injuries.

On Sunday morning, Van Zandt Co. Judge Don Kirkpatrick said that initial rescue efforts were delayed due to multiple reports of tornadoes on Saturday night.

Press Conference

Officials held a press conference late Saturday to update media. “We’ve got special units task forces from around the state that are going to be coming in and going through these areas,” said Captain Horton of the Canton Fire Department. “We still may have some people that are unaccounted for,” Horton continued.

Officials were asking the public to stay away from the affected area. “It’s going to be an ongoing process. This isn’t going to be taken care of overnight. We’re going to be dealing with this in the morning when daylight gets here,” said Horton.

Officials said they expect the damage to be a lot more evident once the sun rises in the morning.  Horton stressed that damage was not just localized to the Canton area. “We do know it’s very severe from the south western part of our county traveling up northeast,” said Horton. “This is a Van Zandt county issue. We have a triage set up here in Canton and in other areas,” Horton continued.

Horton said there were five dead but that total was revised down Sunday morning to four. He stressed that as officials continue to search, they may find more casualties. “That number may go up in the morning once we can get into these areas,” said Horton.

Horton said that officials are out looking for survivors. “We have officers at major intersections along the affected area. If people need help, or they can get to a main road, we have officers there. Its a big swath that we have to cover. We will get them to a shelter,” said Horton.

Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett said the city is asking people to stay away from that area today including the popular First Monday Trade Days. First Monday Trade Days grounds were not hit but the Mayor said the event will still be closed Sunday.

The mayor also said that due to power outages, the water system in that city was offline. She told CBS 11 News that generators were being brought in to help get the water system back online.

screen shot 2017 04 29 at 8 12 45 pm 4 Dead, Dozens Injured After Tornado Rips Through Van Zandt County

Canton tornado damage (courtesy: Jason McLaughlin)

As of early Sunday morning, Oncor said that over “4,000 points of delivery were out. According to Kris Spears, poles have been snapped and uprooted. Spears said crews have been on the ground since it was safe to do so Saturday night and will be on the ground “around the clock” until power can be restored. There is no estimate on when the power will be back on in most areas.

Crews from other areas outside the Canton area are helping to restore power along with the normal crews assigned to Canton said Spears.

The Rowlett Police Department and Rowlett Fire Rescue units went to Canton to help in the aftermath of the tornado. Crews from Rockwall County also headed to the area.

A spokesperson for Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler told CBS11, ambulances from the damaged areas were en route to the hospital with people suffering anywhere from minor to serious injuries.

A triage center was also set up at Canton High School. TV crews were not allowed in that area, but it was said to be very crowded.

Gov.Greg Abbott also said help was on the way to Canton Saturday night. “Texas Task Force 2 has been sent to help the Canton & Van Zandt areas respond to weather,” Abbott tweeted.

Aftermath of storms

The North Texas American Red Cross responded to the disaster as well. A shelter was opened at First Methodist Church Life Center, 600 S. Buffalo in Canton. Another shelter was opened at Emory City Center, 320 Texas Street North in Emory. 

The Red Cross said volunteers will begin damage assessment Sunday, April 30 if it is safe to do so.

Anyone affected by the storms can contact the Red Cross at 866-505-4801.


One Comment

  1. Our property at 4310 State Hwy 198 is devastated! Our 2200 SqFt Mobile is Gone. Cars are upside down in field. Horse is missing. Guest cottage has a tree on it. Trees around second house are snapped or down. Doug in Canton 559 270 6487

    1. I am so very very sorry. I hope your horse is just grazing somewhere, safe.

  2. Joe Johnson says:

    The addition of a map to show the general area where this occurred would have enhance the information provided in this article.

  3. Iron Fist says:

    they didn’t get close enough

  4. Now this is a true nightmare .. the devastation caused by these things, the inability to hide or protect your home , your animals .. the speed with which they come and destroy everything in their path .. hideous.

  5. Prayers to all! That is probably an EF4. Pretty intense

  6. Our children use to live in Canton so we have visited the area numerous times, and this breaks my heart to see. The citizens of Canton are some of the kindest, most sincere and God loving people anyone could ever hope to know. Please hold these people in your hearts and prayers.

  7. Jack Wolf says:

    Trump and his denial owns this now.

    1. Jane Galt says:

      This is a tragedy…but Tornadoes in the spring, in Texas (Oklahoma, Kansas, etc) are more of a sign of climate staying the same, not “Climate Change”. Trump had nothing to do with this and neither did you.

    2. REALLY??? You bring politics into this??? PEOPLE DIED!!! PEOPLE LOST EVERYTHING!!! You are one heartless S.O.B.!!!

    3. Wayne Pearcy says:

      With all the money Communist Democrats will steal from hard working families and give to Al Gore or government? These hard working families could have built a storm shelter. I know Democrats have EXTREMELY short attention spans but, Texas has had tornadoes long before Trump became President. What is it with Democrats? Have the taken so many drugs they can no longer remember anything past yesterday or are they all just hustling con artists?

  8. Wayne Pearcy says:

    Living with tornados is like living in a warzone and there’s not much we can do about it. But, I sure don’t like how they build houses these days. Compared to houses built fifty years ago today’s house are pretty much made out of paper mache . I think this inadequate or cheap construction is leading to a lot of deaths. I know of a storm shelter builder in Decatur (or it might be Denton) They’ll install a cheap semi underground shelter for $3,500.

  9. Tornadoes are like wives: sooner or later they get the house.

  10. Dan English says:

    Hope everyone down there makes it through this ok, I think if I lived there I would have a cinder block house not pretty but really strong.

Comments are closed.

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