NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – What was expected to be an afternoon of storms with heavy rain and possible hail quickly turned into tornado emergencies for cities across North Texas.
Amazingly, there have been no reports of death or serious injury from any of the more than one dozen counties in North Texas. Late Tuesday afternoon the National Weather Service (NWS) released extremely preliminary information that put the unofficial tornado count in North Texas at 12.
Tuesday afternoon, simultaneous storms in Dallas and Tarrant counties produced the believed multiple tornadoes. The NWS will have to determine is there were actual twisters in Arlington, Cleburne, DeSoto, Forney, Joshua, Kennedale, Lancaster Mesquite and Royse City.
Regardless, residents in those areas have their own ideas.
In Lancaster, residents in the Rolling Hills area, near Wintergreen and Rodgers, are dealing with home damage ranging fro shingles missing from the roof to entire sections of homes blown away.
Roy Griffin rode out the storm in an inner closet. When he walked outside many of his neighbors homes were simply missing and his pickup truck was blown half a block away and sat on its side.
Four buildings in the Portofino Apartments in Lancaster were severely damaged. Those units have been evacuated and are unlivable. The believed tornado cut a path through a row of buildings extending through the apartment complex. Late Tuesday evening some residents returned to the area and began removing large debris. At one point there was an overturned car in the parking lot and downed power lines.
Lancaster Mayor Marcus Knight held an afternoon press conference where he said the tornado that touched down there entered from the south and traveled northwest up Interstate-20.
“Roughly 300 structures have been affected by the tornado — various degrees from severe, to slight,” he said. “We have multiple injuries that have been reported, although no causalities have been confirmed or been reported at this time.”
Knight also said city leaders decided that no one should be on the streets of Lancaster come nightfall. “We have established a curfew from 7 p.m. tonight through 7 a.m. in the morning,” Knight explained. “We have cordoned off Telephone Road to our north, Bayport to our south, Pebble Beach to the east and Sunny Meadow to the west. That area has been deemed to dangerous for anyone to enter into.”
One employee at a Lancaster CVS Pharmacy location said, “We were in the cooler, just trying to get ready. We were trying to shut the pharmacy down and they told us that the tornado was in the parking lot.”
In Arlington, along Little Road and Pine Glen, damage varied from house-to-house. Some homeowners had little to no damage with their next door neighbors left with holes in roof, blown out windows and toppled fences.
CBS 11 News viewers are not only dealing with possible tornado damage but also sent pictures to CBSDFW.COM of golf ball-sized hail.
The consensus is that residents are simply stunned. One woman in Arlington was walking the streets collecting pictures. She told CBS 11 that the pictures were obviously the treasures of people in the community and she wanted to gather them and try and find their owners later.
In Johnson County, firefighters say there were two tornadoes that touched down there. One touched down east of Joshua and another to the southeast. The twister east of town did little or no damage, but the one southeast of town was on the ground for about a full minute damaging four homes and destroying several out buildings.
An 85-year-old Johnson County resident told CBS 11′s Joel Thomas that while she usually ‘doesn’t get out much’ she felt ‘antsy’ today. The woman decided to go to church and wasn’t at home when the storm completely destroyed her mobile home, blowing the inner walls into a neighboring house. While all of the walls of the mobile home were down and the roof completely gone, inside the closet all of the elderly woman’s clothes sat undamaged.
Sheltering from the storm was the main concern across North Texas. At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport all plane departures and arrivals were cancelled by mid-afternoon. At one point airport spokesman David Magana said they were moving passengers, “…away from all of the glass areas on the edges of the terminals and into the centered areas of the terminal and away from the windows as much as we can.”
As of the afternoon hours, dozens of inbound DFW flights were diverted to Abilene, Houston, Shreveport, El Paso, San Antonio and several other cities. In all, some 400 departing flights were canceled. DFW reported that more than 110 planes at the airport sustained some degree of damage.
At Dallas Love Field some 45 flights, in and out of the airport, were cancelled. Though strong storms moved through the Mockingbird area the airport had no reports of damages.
Anyone with travel planes today or tomorrow is advised to contact their departing airport.
Students across North Texas took cover as storms rolled through. The Dallas Independent School District sheltered students in place and held them at area schools until the storms passed. Students in the Arlington, Fort Worth and Irving ISDs were also sent to safe areas.
A believed tornado touched down in Irving and caused damage at Townsell Elementary School. Minor damage to the building was reported including a ruptured gas line and damage to two HVAC units. No one at the school was injured.
Traffic issues were concerns across North Texas. An 18-wheeler jackknifed in a construction zone along Interstate-20, west of Weatherford. All westbound lanes were blocked and some eastbound lanes were affected.
Other highways and byways were clogged with slowed or completely stopped traffic.
The storm has left thousands of residents without power, as reported by Oncor, which services homes and businesses Dallas County, Tarrant, Johnson, Denton, Collin, Parker, Kaufman counties.
At least one emergency shelter has been set up residents who have been displaced by the storm. The shelter has been set up at Kiest Place, located at 3080 S. Hampton Road in Dallas.