IMAGE: MAN SURVEYS DAMAGED HOME
Matt Slocum  /  AP
Dennis Lea walks through what's left of his home Wednesday in Westminster, Texas, after it was hit by a tornado overnight.
updated 5/10/2006 3:18:53 PM ET 2006-05-10T19:18:53

Tornadoes swept through rural North Texas after dark, reducing houses to bare concrete slabs in a path of destruction that left three people dead and 10 injured, officials said Wednesday.

An elderly couple were found dead in a destroyed mobile home in the tiny community of Westminster, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas, Collin County Fire Marshal Steve Deffibaugh said. He said a 14-year-old was found dead in a home in neighboring Grayson County.

The twister took many residents “by surprise, totally unaware,” Deffibaugh said.

Westminster doesn’t have sirens, and the tornado hit too fast for the county’s emergency phone-calling system to respond, he said. In Grayson County, officials were going door-to-door Wednesday in a search for anyone still trapped.

“It sounded like a regular thunderstorm, then it went crazy,” said Cathy Dotson, who huddled on the floor with her grandchildren when the tornado hit Tuesday night. “I could actually feel my house move. I looked outside my window, and all I could see was gray.”

A half mile away, Christy Adame emerged from a closet to find her horse barn gone, one of her horses in a tree and the smell of propane so strong that officials wouldn’t let a neighbor shoot his suffering cow, which had been impaled on a two-by-four.

“We realized this was the real thing this time,” Adame said. “This was not just a warning.”

At least six homes were destroyed in Westminster, a community of 420 people. A tornado also hit nearby in Anna, a town of 6,500 residents, where residents said the sirens sounded.

One couple whose roof was torn off left a sheet of paper held down by two rocks that read “Harry and Mary Donaho are fine” and gave their daughter’s phone number.

‘It sounded terrifying’
Jeri Tishmack, of nearby Van Alstyne, said she stayed on the phone with her parents throughout the storm as they crouched in the living room between a sofa and a small table.

“It sounded terrifying,” Tishmack said. “All I heard was a really high-pitched sound.”

Another tornado in the Texas Panhandle town of Childress knocked down a wall at the local high school, and broken power lines sparked treetop fires, officials said. Gas lines were broken and downed trees blocked roads, but there were no reports of injuries.

In southeast Oklahoma, three tornadoes touched down and the region was pelted with hail, but no severe damage or injuries were immediately reported, officials said. The National Weather Service received reports of a tornado near Olney in Coal County and two others near Stringtown.

Storms also raked Arkansas early Wednesday, toppling trees, damaging roofs and downing power lines.

Students at a Little Rock junior high school were evacuated to a high school next door after a tree fell near fuel tanks, authorities said. A FedEx truck was blown into the median of Interstate 530 near Redfield, Ark., and at Bentonville, the wind speed hit 62 mph.

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Video: Deadly twisters

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