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Twister tears through northeast Texas, injures 4

By the CNN Wire Staff
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'We are in the tornado'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "We are in a tornado," emergency official says on videotape of twister
  • "Significant damage" is reported in Navarro County, Texas
  • The county's emergency management coordinator says winds were about 125 mph
  • A witness says he saw a funnel form and rode out the storm in a restaurant freezer

See more tornado coverage from CNN affiliate WFAA in Dallas, Texas.

(CNN) -- Authorities in northeast Texas were assessing damage Monday morning after a tornado destroyed homes, knocked train cars off their tracks and injured at least four people.

Five homes in Rice, Texas, were destroyed as 125 mph winds whipped through a seven-mile swath of Navarro County Sunday evening, said Eric Meyers, the county's emergency management coordinator.

Meyers rode out the tornado inside a vehicle and videotaped the twister as it tore the roof off a school about a block away.

"We are in the tornado! We are in the tornado!" Meyers yells several times in the video.

Video: Tornado caught on camera
Video: Tornadoes rock Texas
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"The sheer power was just amazing," Meyers said in an interview Monday on CNN's "American Morning" program.

The storm, which struck around 5:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET), also turned over an 18-wheeler truck onto a passenger car, knocked 11 cars from a freight train off their tracks and caused extensive damage to Rice Elementary School, Navarro County Chief Deputy Mike Cox said.

Video: 'People screamed, cried, and prayed' as tornado passed

Four people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, he said.

In addition to "significant damage" from the storm moving through Navarro County, witnesses also reported possible tornadoes in other parts of northeast Texas Sunday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Callers reported four tornadoes in Lone Oak, Texas, Fire Chief Chris Moore said, but authorities had not yet confirmed whether a twister had touched down there. The storm destroyed one home, damaged three others and knocked down power lines there, Moore said.

Authorities called off a youth football game as winds picked up speed and hail pelted the county, he said.

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Sonia Butler hunkered down in the bathroom of her Rice home with her brother as the storm hit.

"You could just hear the wind coming through the house and it felt like a big suction," she told CNN affiliate WFAA. "And then it sounded like a loud train, and it only lasted -- not very long, but after that, after we came out of the restroom, our house was just gone."

Her husband, Raymond Butler, sought shelter in another part of the home as the storm hit.

The room he stayed in remained untouched, but the storm demolished most of their home, ripping off the roof, shattering light bulbs and breaking their deceased daughter's track trophies.

The storm also destroyed two trucks, a trailer, and a giant pecan tree on the property -- but it spared the grave of their daughter, who died last year.

"I just got down on my knees and said, 'Lord be with us,' " Raymond Butler told WFAA.

Joey Romero, 24, said he and his girlfriend rode out the storm in the freezer of a Sonic restaurant at a service station in Rice.

They were driving from Dallas to Houston when it started to hail, he said.

"We pulled over under some covering. Hail the size of golf balls started falling. Then, we saw hail the size of baseballs," he said.

Someone screamed when they saw a funnel forming behind Sonic, he said. The wind roared and the station lost power.

"The first few seconds it was all sort of surreal. I couldn't really believe it was happening. ... We all walked back in the freezer. It was cold in there and there wasn't light and people were starting to cry," he said.

The hail shattered car windows, Romero said. The second-year medical student at University of Texas, Houston, said he helped treat injuries. A police officer told him a truck and a car had flipped over on the highway.

After several hours, Romero was on the road back to Houston late Sunday.

"Even now, we can see the storm off to the east of us. The sky is pitch black," he said.

Later Sunday, a possible tornado swept through Baldwin County, Alabama, knocking down power lines and tree branches, destroying a mobile home and shifting another mobile home off its foundation, said Leigh Ann Ryals with the county's Emergency Operations Center.

One person was injured, Ryals said, and crews planned to continue surveying damage Monday.

CNN's Jacqui Jeras, Catherine E. Shoichet, Jessica Jordan, Rick Martin and Leslie Tripp contributed to this report.

 
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