Widespread damage and casualties occurred Saturday when at least 11 tornadoes tore through the Dallas area, destroying homes and injuring at least 15 people. Eleven people are confirmed dead, USA Today reported, eight from the city of Garland, Texas and three from the town of Copeville, Texas. First responders are still combing through the wreckage, so it's possible that the death toll may continue to rise. The nearby town of Rowlett, Texas also suffered heavy damage and leveled homes.
The late December severe weather system isn't unheard of, but it's certainly unusual. The temperatures have been remarkably higher than average in the Southeast region this month, and a cold front from Canada that swept south this week created the massive, powerful storms that have caused so much destruction in the last several days.
Photos of the damage quickly popped up online, and the destruction is heartbreaking. Lt. Pedro Barineau of the Garland Police Department said at least 600 structures in that city alone have been damaged. The loss of hundreds of homes and buildings in a devastating blow to these small communities, especially so shortly after the holidays. Storm chasers also captured video of the tornado that shows the scale of the storm, which left about 50,000 people in the area without power overnight.
The Houston area is also bracing for a severe weather system to move through the city later Sunday. A tornado watch is in place across the southeast region of Texas, and a tornado warning is in effect for four counties. Houston rarely experiences tornadoes, but the record breaking high temperatures combining with a coming cold front are the perfect recipe for a supercell. Many of the Dallas area casualties occurred when people were out on the roads, so officials are urging people to stay indoors and seek shelter during the storms.
Prior to the recent outbreak of severe weather, 2015 was set to be the least deadly year from tornadoes in recent history. But with the tornadoes last week in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi that killed 10, and this storm system in Texas, the year's death toll has increased to 31.
Meanwhile, another rash of severe weather is spreading blizzard conditions across New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, which could bring up to 15 inches of snow in the next few days. El Paso, Texas, received a nearly record-breaking amount of snow Saturday, accumulating eight inches in parts of the city.
The severe weather is far from over, and officials are advising anyone in affected areas to stay indoors and seek shelter in the event of a storm. Make sure you're ready for a tornado if one should hit and learn about how to stay safe.