EAST TEXAS (KLTV) – At least five people died during Saturday storms in East Texas.
The Ben Wheeler Volunteer Fire Department confirms the body of an unidentified person was found in a pasture in Canton. A tornado warning remains in effect for the area through 8:30 p.m.
Officials later confirmed that five people were killed during the storms and that the number of casualties could increase. Officials are asking residents to stay out of the area while emergency crews work. They say trees are downed and there is extensive damage in southern Van Zandt County. Some homes were destroyed during the storm.
Displacement centers are set up area churches.
Earlier in the day, tornado warnings were issued for several East Texas counties.
A tornado warning was issued for the following counties through 9:15 p.m: Smith, Wood
The National Weather Service said the tornado warning for southeastern Van Zandt County was located near Colfax, moving northeast at 20 mph. Damage to roofs, windows and vehicles is likely.
So far, five tornadoes have been reported across the area, including one a mile wide, according to law enforcement. Eustace, Canton and Fruitvale received heavy damage and dozens of injuries have been reported.
According to officials, ETMC-Tyler is currently under a yellow alert. ETMC’s Rebecca Berkley said the hospital was expecting about 40 patients from the Eustace, Canton, Fruitvale area.
Around 9 p.m., Berkley said that ETMC Athens has received 36 patients from tornadoes in Eustace and Fruitvale. One patient is in critical condition.
ETMC Cedar Creek Lake has received 8 patients, all with non-life threatening injuries.
ETMC Tyler has more patients en route from the Canton tornado, all with non-life threatening injuries.
Three patients have been transferred by ETMC EMS from Canton. According to Berkley, one patient came to ETMC Tyler and two were transferred to Christus Trinity Mother Frances. ETMC EMS sent 10 ambulances to Canton.
According to Trinity Mother Frances officials, they have seen a couple of ambulances come in, all patients with non-critical injuries. They are also on standby and staffed to help.
TMF officials said those with minor injuries are being treated closer to the scene in Athen and Kaufman County.
A Dodge car dealership on Interstate 20 in the Canton area received heavy damage. Several cars were flipped over and a building appears to have sustained some damage. Officials have not confirmed if there are any injuries at this time.
Officials say Canton ISD and Fruitvale ISD have been mobilized as triage centers. A 22-passenger ambulance is headed to the Canton area from Palestine, the Piney Woods Regional Advisory Council said.
TxDOT said crews are responding to assess damages after possible tornadic activity continues to move through Van Zandt County. There no road closures reported at this time, but caution is advised.
Multiple agencies are heading to East Texas to assist Van Zandt and Henderson counties, including the Texas Task Force and the Regional State Fire Marshal’s Office. Smith County has sent their Command Platform Trailer and will be stationed at the Canton High School. Smith County is also sending several firefighters and trucks to assist. Smith County Sheriff’s Office is also sending 3 units to Canton and 2 to Fruitvale.
Kilgore police are deploying a strike force of officers and a dispatcher to Canton to assist.
A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the following counties through 6 a.m. Sunday: Angelina, Bowie, Cass, Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine and Shelby
Saturday was also First Monday Trade Days in Canton and several people reported having to take shelter.
A flood warning has been issued for the following counties until May 4 at 11:30 p.m.: Franklin, Morris, Titus