CEDAR PARK, Texas -- A group of Albertson's shoppers and employees took shelter here in the store's meat freezer last Tuesday while a tornado ripped the roof off the building.
The twister was part of a powerful spring storm last week that wrought tornadoes and flash flooding in central Texas, killing at least 32 and injuring scores of others, authorities said. After the tornado tore the roof off the Albertson's store here, the remaining structure collapsed. Only the facade remained.
At least eight people were injured in the store, according to police. One employee, a 51-year-old produce clerk, was hospitalized in critical condition with a head injury, said Jenny Enochson, an Albertson's spokeswoman.
Store director Larry Fore, who had stayed up for 32 hours during the crisis, was unavailable for comment.
Enochson told SN that a team of rescue workers went through the debris, and as of last Wednesday had not found any more victims. She said Albertson's, based in Boise, Idaho, would not assess the property damage until all employees and customers were accounted for.
Mia Sims, manager of public relations for Randalls Food Markets, Houston, said some of the company's 16 Austin stores experienced a temporary power loss, but were not in the tornado's path.
"We held up fine," she said. "God blessed us. [The tornado] missed us."
Sims said the chain has responded to requests by charities for ice, cups, paper lunch bags, aluminum foil and sandwich bags. It is also providing boxes for victims who need to box up their belongings.
Albertson's has donated $5,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts, and has made food donations to local agencies, said Enochson.
Hardest hit was Jarrell, Texas, a farming town 38 miles north of Austin, where a tornado ripped up a patch of land about a mile long and 200 yards wide. As many as 30,000 Austin residents lost electricity when strong winds knocked down power lines.
Unlike a hurricane or a flood, which can devastate whole counties at a time, the effect of a tornado tends to be more concentrated, say weather experts.
Billy Peters, owner of Cedar Valley Grocery, Austin, said his three stores were unaffected. A spokeswoman for Whole Foods Market, also based in Austin, said it was unaffected as well