Nightly News   |  May 16, 2013

Tornadoes strike North Texas, leaving at least 6 dead

The tornado that devastated Granbury, Texas, had winds up to 200 miles an hour and killed at least six people. It was one of 12 tornadoes that hit North Texas Wednesday night. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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>>> good evening. as night fell to the west of ft. worth, texas , last night, they say they could feel that charge in the air. people knew bad weather was coming. they didn't know how bad. it turns out at its height, the storm system was visible from space down to the circulation of one tornado just minutes before it dropped down and was reported on the ground. one of a dozen tornadoes to strike last night. some of them producing the most severe and damaging winds on earth. the death toll has been growing as some of the missing have been found. nbc's gabe gutierrez starts us off from granbury , texas , tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. this is what an ef4 tornado looks like. homes obliterated. the death toll stands at six. they are just starting to release the names of the dead. and seven people are unaccounted for. in granbury , texas , first light shone on a new and devastated landscape. homes shredded, cars tossed. and this couple's life ripped apart.

>> shaking uncontrollably, unbelievably. what's five, ten minutes seems like hours.

>> reporter: their house in the hardest hit area, a development largely built by habitat for humanity less than five years ago.

>> when you can put a name and a face that you work beside the people that built that house and you know how much that home means to that family, it is very devastating.

>> reporter: residents here were alerted to the danger, warning sirens shrieked for about 26 minutes before the tornado hit. [ siren ]

>> reporter: giving many time to recover. the national weather service estimates the ef4 tornado had winds of up to 200 miles per hour. the howling and hail began at sundown.

>> oh, my word. look at all. that.

>> reporter: when it was over more than 100 homes were damaged. at least six people were dead. dozens more injured.

>> it was like hell.

>> amazed that we all lived through it really. just scared to death.

>> reporter: the fast-moving storms barrelled east toward the heavily populated dallas-ft. worth metro area .

>> at least get inside of a closet, a bathroom. get away from windows.

>> reporter: 25 miles away, another twister, likely an ef3, tore through the small town of cleburne, and a third storm destroyed more homes west of ft. worth.

>> we were sound asleep. this piece falls on top of me, then this piece falls right beside me. it was unreal.

>> reporter: but despite the death toll in granbury , officials credit the early warning system here with saving lives.

>> i knew this was going to be one of the worst i've ever seen, and it was.

>> reporter: now a massive effort is underway to find those still missing, reunite families --

>> it was bad. it was the scariest thing i've ever been in.

>> reporter: and clean up the debris. as for the missing, authorities are hopeful that they're not trapped in the rubble but maybe simply haven't told officials exactly where they are. still, emergency responders plan to keep searching, brian.

>> gabe gutierrez starting us off