Tornado Survivors Recall Night of Terror: "Never Been So Scared in My Life"

Six died and up to 100 people were injured in a string of tornadoes that cut through North Texas Wednesday night

By Emily Feldman
|  Friday, May 17, 2013  |  Updated 2:45 AM PDT
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Power lines were struck down and roofs were damaged by straight line winds that hit Ennis Wednesday night.

Keaton Fox, NBC 5

Power lines were struck down and roofs were damaged by straight line winds that hit Ennis Wednesday night.

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Earl McCoy was asleep when a tornado — one of 16 to tear through North Texas Wednesday night — arrived in Ennis.

He was awoken, not by screaming wind or blaring sirens, but by a drip of water that fell from his ceiling — his only warning of what was to come.

A moment later, the ceiling collapsed. "I jumped up and went to the door and then that fell," McCoy said, pointing to another section of the ceiling. "To be sound asleep, and this piece falls on top of me, and this piece falls right beside me ... it was unreal."

Elizabeth Tovar of Granbury, the hardest-hit area of North Texas, rode out the storm in her tub.

"We were all, like, hugging in the bathtub and that's when it started happening. I heard glass shattering and I knew my house was going," Tovar said. "We looked up and … the whole ceiling was gone."

Three tornadoes that touched down drilled through Hood County around 8 p.m., leaving six dead, seven missing and 250 people homeless, Sheriff Roger Deeds said.

All of the fatalities were in the Rancho Brazos neighborhood, built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers over the last five years.

"Some were found in houses. Some were found around houses," Deeds said. "There was a report that two of these people that they found were not even near their homes. So we're going to have to search the area out there."

The search for survivors, and the dead, began last night at the scene, which Deeds described as "a war zone."

NBC 5 DFW's Scott Gordon, who was in Granbury after the storm hit, said that residents in the area appeared to be "dazed." He said there were not enough stretchers to go around and that children were carried out as driving rain hammered down.

Back in Ennis, Donna Summer was expressing her gratitude for the police and firefighters who checked on her throughout the night. She was working a late shift at a local restaurant when the winds picked up.

"Sounded like a low, whirring, whir noise, like a train. A small train," she said. "I just stayed inside and prayed a lot. Didn't want to get outside. I was afraid to see if we had a town left."

After the power cut out, she said the only lights were those from police and fire vehicles outside.

"About every hour they'd come by and check on me ... make sure the boogeyman don't get me."

Further west in Cleburne, where a mile-wide tornado was reported Wednesday night, Shari East was still processing what she went through.

"I have nightmares about tornadoes every year, and now I lived through one."

East said she heard warning sirens for a few minutes before the storm was upon her.

"It just kind of hit out of nowhere. You could hear it. My husband made us all get in the bathtub and put mattresses over us. He wouldn't get in the bathtub because there wasn't enough room."

East had been on the phone with her daughter, who lives across town, when the call cut off.

"Scary. Never been so scared in my life," she said, adding that she was "amazed that we all lived through it."

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