Tornadoes rip through East Texas, four are dead/Governor issues Diaster Declaration for Henderson, Van Zandt and Rains counties

Posted by : admin | On : May 4, 2017

Athens-Eustace Tornado 4-29

By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
CANTON–According to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth Tuesday, a total of seven tornadoes formed Saturday, April 29. Four of them were rated EF-0 (65-85 mph) appearing with brief tracks near Grand Saline at 4:15 p.m., near Canton at 5:10 p.m., near Cumby from 5:30-5:50 p.m. and southwest of Canton leaving a brief track around 7:13 p.m. The EF- 4 (166-200 mph) that left a long track from Eustace moving into Van Zandt County west of Canton left a mile-wide swath of damage between 5:29 and 6:09 p.m.
An EF-2 tornado tracked east of the EF-4 from Eustace into Van Zandt County west of Canton between 5:41 and 6:04 p.m.
However, an EF-3 (136-165 mph) tornado stayed on the ground for 51 miles tracking from Van Zandt County through Canton and into Rains County and lasted from 6:08 p.m. to 7:28 p.m., the result of which were four deaths including a welder from Corsicana Russell “Rusty Barlow, 51, who was crushed under a race car lift when the tornado hit. He was at his step-daughter’s wedding.The other victims were identified Monday as Kenneth Hughes, 57, of Van Zandt County who was at home with his wife on VZCR 2434 when the tornado hit, his wife was injured, Lucretia Sykes, 49, of Fort Worth and James Clayton Young, 39, of Alba who was traveling on State Highway 64 just outside of Canton when the tornado hit, dragging his car off 200 yards.
Three hospitals in Tyler, Athens and Cedar Creek Lake treated 56 people with six remaining hospitalized Tuesday and one in critical condition.
At least one of these tornadoes, probably the EF-3, caused a pile up of around 30 cars on the I-20 near Canton, perhaps the same one that left a mile-wide swath of destruction on Old Bethel Road, VZCR 230, north of Phalba. The historic Bethel Cemetery suffered its gate and fencing twisted, and it was reported a wedding was also being conducted at a residence in the path of the tornado.
Utility poles were struck as were transformers, turning the lights off in about 14,000 homes. Oncor contractors and other companies were seen throughout the weekend repairing downed power lines and poles. Linemen worked tirelessly and most of Canton had electricity by 8 a.m. May 1. However, homes in the Phalba area and on Old Bethel Road were still using portable generators to get power on Tuesday.
The intersection at State Highways 243 and 19 was deserted, an intersection that once saw thousands of motorists a day, especially during First Monday. Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett was televised Sunday asking visitors to refrain from coming to Trade Days, as the city fights to recover from the devastation.
On Monday and Tuesday, tree trimming crews were out in force and the buzz of chain saws could be heard throughout the affected areas.
On Monday, the Office of the Governor released a statement that Gov. Abbott had declared a State of Disaster in three Texas Counties: Henderson, Van Zandt and Rains. “The recent severe weather across our state has had a devastating impact on the people of East Texas,” Abbott said. “Texans by their very nature are resilient, and I am confident we will remain steadfast in our response to this disaster. I ask that everyone keep those impacted in your prayers as we come together to rebuild in the aftermath of these storms.
Unhappily the weather forecast for Wednesday was more severe weather.