Up to a dozen tornadoes have torn through the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area in the southern US state of Texas, ripping apart buildings, tossing trucks into the air and grounding planes in the region.
At least 10 people were injured in suburban Dallas, two of them severely, police said on Tuesday, while at least three people were injured in Arlington, west of the city, according to a local fire official.
As residents sought refuge in shelters, footage showed school buses, trucks and train carriages being tossed through the air before plunging to the ground, along with houses damaged by the powerful twisters.
|Powerful storms sweep Texas
Two of those injured in Arlington were residents of a nursing home where the storms shattered windows, prompting a rush to escape.
"Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralysed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room," said Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister.
Another resident, Louella Curtis, 92, said workers roused her out of bed and put her in the hall.
"The hallways were all jammed,'' Johnston said. "Everyone was trying to help each other to make a path for others. I'd say everybody was out of their rooms within 20 minutes" she said.
Initial counts put the damage in Arlington at 100 homes. In Lancaster, south of Dallas, 300 homes and businesses suffered significant damage according to local media.
The Red Cross put a preliminary estimate of damaged homes at 650.
Footage showed exposed homes without roofs and flattened buildings as broken sheets of plywood blanketed lawns and covered rooftops.
A pastor at one Lancaster church saw debris swirling in the wind, then steered more than 30 children into a windowless room to ride out the storm.
About 60 more children hid in another windowless room near the women's bathroom at the church's school as a tornado tore down a wall of the building.
Around 150 people remained in Lancaster shelters late on Tuesday.
WFAA television in Dallas aired footage showing residents in one hard-hit neighbourhood frantically directing a policeman, who appeared to be searching for people trapped by the storm.
All planes were grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport, the eighth busiest in the world, American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said. The airport had reopened by late afternoon.
American Airlines said it was cancelling 230 outbound flights and a similar number of inbound flights at the airport.
Flights were also cancelled at Dallas Love Field, a big base for Southwest Airlines. That airline cancelled more than 45 flights in and out of the airport by Tuesday evening.
More than 110 aircraft sustained damage from hail, 400 departures were cancelled and 40 incoming flights were diverted, the airport said in a statement.
Meteorologists said the storms were the result of a slow-moving storm system centred over northern New Mexico.
The US tornado season has started early this year. Tornadoes have been blamed for 57 deaths so far in 2012 in the Midwest and South, raising concerns that this year could be a repeat of 2011, the deadliest year in nearly a century for the unpredictable storms.