"I was actually standing outside on my front porch and watched (a) tornado come across," Robert Barnett told CNN affiliate WFAA. "I've seen tornadoes before -- I've chased them -- but I've never seen one like this. It freaked me out."
Another resident said he thought the storm had passed but was wrong.
"I went back outside and saw stuff flying by and said 'It's here! Let's go!'" Darrin Vasquez told the station. He lost part of the roof on his home and when rain flooded in, a ceiling collapsed.
WFAA said at least 12 homes lost their entire roofs.
In nearby Ellis County, a suspected tornado knocked out power in the city of Ennis about midnight, said Steve Howerton, city manager.
"Several buildings in the downtown historic district have been seriously damaged," he said.
"There are a lot of traumatic injuries," said Donna Martin, a worker at a local veterans' organization. "My husband told me that a car was lifted in the air. It just came in and hit so fast."
B.B. French, who lives on a canal three miles from where the worst of the damage occurred, said she was lucky.
"We had extreme winds," the 71-year-old resident said in a telephone interview. "And then the sirens went off and then I got inside."
As lightning flashed and rain poured, she watched from inside her home as two mallards lay on the pavement. "They just laid down on the sidewalk until the hail came, and then they were smart enough to waddle over and get underneath the roof" of her boat deck.
After the storm passed, French went outside to find that her neighbor on one side had lost a few shingles from his roof; on the other side, a neighbor had lost a couple of shutters; but her house was unscathed.
"It really is just luck," she said.