FORT WORTH (CBS11) – The scars are no longer visible, but the memory has not faded.
March 28, 2000. 6:18 p.m. Storm chasers on the ground.
“Debris! Debris! Tornado on the ground, do you see it?” yells one storm chaser.
During the next ten minutes and four miles, an EF 3 tornado took the lives of two people and left hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
“We had pieces of glass falling all through the night down onto the streets below and it was a very unsafe situation,” recalls Ken Barr.
Barr was Mayor of Fort Worth at the time. He rode out the storm in the emergency operations center and remembers the shocking view after the skies cleared.
“The buildings of downtown looked like somebody had just beaten them up all over,” Barr says.
At the Bank One Building, 80 percent of the windows were gone.
Al Micallef was worried: “It was unbelievably scary to see what was going on.”
Up on the 35th floor, his Reata restaurant was almost totally destroyed.
“The Chairman of Bank One, called me and said ‘Hey Al, I have one of your chairs.’ I said ‘Well I’ll come and get it.’ He said ‘No, no. It’s stuck in the windshield of my Cadillac’,” Micallef remembers.
Cleanup took weeks, but people came together. The tornado spurred new development downtown. Windows were replaced and buildings, upgraded.
“The skyline looks considerably different today,” says Barr.
One positive that came out of the tornado: the City of Fort Worth created a new, emergency warning network for building owners to communicate with police and fire fighters in an emergency.
“One of the good outcomes of this was we recognized our ability to communicate,” Barr says.
Reata reopened at Bank One, then closed again and moved to Sundance Square where it remains an iconic venue today.
In the basement are reminders of how the business weathered the storm: old articles, broken plates, pieces of the original restaurant.
“Even with that, our year over year sales were better than they ever were before so I think that just shows how Fort Worth supported us,” says Mike Micallef, President of Reata.
It’s a touchstone example of how Fort Worth recovered: bigger, stronger than before.
“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Al Micallef agreed.