ALTO, Texas – Two more deaths have been blamed on the weekend storms that ravaged the South, bringing the death toll to at least eight.
One of the deaths in east Texas was that of a person initially among those injured when a tornado tore through the Caddo Mound State Historical Site during a Native American cultural festival Saturday. Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis says the woman has died of her critical injuries.
The National Weather Service says a tornado rated EF-3 with winds of about 140 mph (225 kph) tore through the Caddo Mound area.
In neighboring Houston County, the Sheriff's Office has confirmed one person was killed in Weches, some 6 miles (10 kilometers) southwest of Caddo Mound. Authorities said at least 25 people were taken to the hospital in East Texas after the suspected tornado touched down; eight of those were critically injured.
Residents in Cherokee County are trying to clean up or clear out their property.
Francis Miles, 81, who is originally from Houston, said she's lived through several hurricanes and three floods but says she's lucky to be alive after a tree fell on top of her vehicle while she was driving.
"I saw this tree start to fall across the highway, so I stopped so I wouldn’t run into it. And when I stopped, the trees on this side of the tree that fell all fell on my car with me in it," Miles said. "Now, I was blessed. I was in the driver side, and it sort of made an X above me, but the weight of those trees above me when the hurricane, I mean tornado, came through, I could feel the car shaking. And I just said, 'Lord, if it's my time, I commit my spirit to your loving hands."
Miles described how she managed to escape her vehicle from the fallen trees.
"I managed to put the passenger side seat in a reclining position, climb over it and wipe (the glass). The whole back glass blew out, all the glass was in the seat, so I had to sweep it out of the way and crawl into the seat. And then I grabbed my seat belt ... to pull the lever so the seat would go back to the up position so I could get to the door to get out," Miles said.
She said she hiked and climbed over trees to get home to her husband, but was helped by a storm chaser on the way. Miles said she is grateful she and her husband survived the storm.
The Alto Independent School District canceled classes for the immediate future because of the damage, according to the superintendent.