May 29, 1997 in Nation/World

Twister Tears Town Asunder Toll Of Tuesday’s Fury Could Hit 50, One-Tenth Of Population

Washington Post
 

As the tornado roared directly toward their home, 13-year-old John Reyes, his grandmother Emma Mullins and his small cousin Ryan took refuge under a bed. There was nowhere else to go.

“They were up underneath the bed, and the mattress started lifting up, and the boys started to be pulled away,” said Mullins’s nephew, Dwayne Meche. “My aunt went to reach for them, and she got lifted up, and John said he saw a board go straight through her back.”

Mullins, a waitress for more than 30 years at the L&M; Cafe in nearby Georgetown, was among the 27 confirmed dead in this small farming community that has been struck twice in the past eight years - once in 1989 and again Tuesday - by killer tornadoes. Ryan Mullins, age 5, whose body was flung at least 500 feet, also died. But John Reyes, although badly cut and bruised, managed to survive.

The tornado, one of a series that ripped through central Texas Tuesday afternoon, flattened the Double Creek subdivision where Mullins lived, scraping the modest houses from their foundations, hurling pets and farm animals into the air, ripping the very pavement off streets and leaving residents with the horrifying reminder that tragedy can visit again and again.

Even as the bodies were removed from a temporary morgue Wednesday and anxious relatives scanned the “safe lists” at the American Red Cross shelter, authorities offered this ominous fact: Twenty-three other persons here are unaccounted for, which could bring the death toll in this community of about 500 residents as high as 50, one-tenth of the population of Jarrell proper.

With nearby farming families, the total population of the unincorporated area, located about 40 miles north of Austin, is about 1,000.

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