CANTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Four confirmed tornadoes ripped through Van Zandt County on Saturday, killing four people and leaving behind a massive path of destruction. Early Monday afternoon officials identified two of the dead as 39-year-old James Clayton of Alva and 49-year-old Lekeisha Sykes of Fort Worth.
Some of the worst damage is in Canton, where residents will have to sort through a huge mess as they begin to move forward.
Homes and businesses were torn apart, some completely leveled. Storage facilities were wiped out. Cars were flipped over and trees were toppled.
Before people can worry about property, however, the greater concern is for everyone’s safety and survival. Search and rescue crews spent Monday morning combing through debris from the weekend storms. Anyone found injured was to be taken to Canton High School, where a triage center was set up and ambulances were on standby.
Area hospitals are already treating dozens of injured people, including two in critical condition.
School districts in Canton, Eustace and Fruitvale have all canceled classes on Monday so that families can focus on cleanup.
Drinking water continues to be a big issue for many residents. Officials in Canton had asked people to conserve water because three city wells lost power. That situation has since been resolved. But the entire city of Eustace is still under a boil notice, and Fruitvale has no running water for any of the people on the town’s supply.
The American Red Cross is sending in emergency response vehicles on Monday with food, water and cleanup supplies. Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett said early Monday that the greatest need, however, is money, as it will be very expensive for the city’s residents to rebuild.
You can assist tornado victims on Monday as well. CBS 11 News is partnering with Albertsons to raise money for The Salvation Army’s disaster relief effort. Our phone drive runs from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and all money raised will go directly to helping out the victims of Saturday’s devastating tornadoes in Van Zandt County. Click here for details.
Those in the path of the tornado suffered dramatic losses.
Jessica Carter and Kyle Carpenter were set to be married on Saturday. But the dream wedding turned into a nightmare when the tornado moved through. The storm tossed cars and sent family members scrambling to save lives. Carter’s stepdad, Rusty Barlow, did not make it.
There are also amazing stories of survival. Students from Edgewood High School were to gather at The Rustic Barn in Canton for prom on Saturday night. The event was canceled 30 minutes before the storms blew through, but some students had already arrived.
The property is owned by Dallas firefighter Reagan Sumner. When tornado sirens went off, Sumner and some adults herded about 20 people into a bathroom. It was one of the only parts of the building standing after the tornado passed. “You go through a lot of bad stuff and hear bad stuff when you’re at fires, but I’ve never been through something like that,” Sumner admitted. “We were in that little room and we heard, we felt the sucking feeling, I mean the pressure. The insulation just started covering us. It was scary.”
Everyone was safe, but damages to Sumner’s property will likely total more than $1 million. There isn’t an official estimate on the damage and people are already working to make it easier for Reagan to rebuild.
Mike Mclemore lives in Canton and is also a Dallas firefighter. He said when he learned that Sumners and two other Dallas Fire Rescue families lost everything in the storms he knew just where to go. “You don’t ever plan on all this training and stuff to work in your own backyard,” he said.
The Dallas Firefighters Association is now donating $1,000 to each of their members who lost their home.
Early Monday afternoon a Van Zandt County judge said some 100 people are out searching today, but that everyone had been accounted for so far. The city will remain under a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday night. Onlookers have been asked to stay away from the area.