An unprecedented cluster of tornadoes ripped through major towns and cities in Texas yesterday leaving thousands of homes reduced to rubble and more than a dozen people injured.
The powerful storm swept trucks across the skies and base-ball sized hail stones punched holes in the roofs of cars and homes.
Meteorologists said it was the first time two “extremely dangerous” tornadoes hit two large metropolitan areas at the same time. Arlington and Lancaster were worst hit with both areas being declared “disaster zones”, while damage was reported in at least nine cities in five counties.
“I have never seen two tornadoes hit two large metropolitan areas at the same time before,” AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity said, reports Newsroom America.
Weather service advisories issued yesterday said storm spotters and radar revealed separate tornadoes south of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Brandy Kemps filmed one of the tornadoes from work in north Texas, she told ABC News: “Debris was flying right in front of me in the air – shingles, dirt, tree limbs. The tornado funnel was coming right at us, then went directly behind the apartment building I was in and then made a right toward 45 North.”
One tornado tore through the Flying J Truck Plaza in Dallas, grabbing two trailer trucks and tossing them, said truck driver Michael Glennon, who caught the destruction on his video camera as debris swirled through the air.
In Sunnyvale, Heather Montoya said the dark funnel shook her entire home and left uprooted trees inside and her furniture scattered all over her property.
“It was insane. We have a lot of windows in our house. The whole house started shaking and in five seconds it was completely done,” she told ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA.
A grandmother in Diamond Creeks, Forney, where 20 to 30 homes were severely damaged, sought refuge in a bath-tub with her grandchildren as the walls of her home collapsed. The woman was forced to hold on to her 18-month-old grandson’s legs as the powerful winds almost swept him away, the toddler suffered minor injuries.
Most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storm. Yet in Lancaster, where around 300 homes were destroyed, television helicopters panned over exposed homes without roofs and flattened buildings. Broken sheets of plywood blanketed lawns and covered rooftops.
A pastor at one Lancaster church saw debris swirling in the wind, then herded more than 30 children, some as young as newborns, into a windowless room to ride out the storm. Nearby at the church’s school, about 60 more children hid in another windowless room near the women’s bathroom.
An entire wall of Cedar Valley Christian Academy wound up being taken out in the storm. Pastor Glenn Young said he didn’t know when the school might re-open.
“I’m a little concerned,” Glenn Young said.
“This is our livelihood.”
Residents could be seen walking down the street with firefighters and peering into homes, looking at the damage after the storm passed.
Devlin Norwood said he was at his Lancaster home when he heard the storm sirens. He said he made a quick trip to a nearby store when he saw the funnel-shaped tornado lower, kick up debris and head toward his neighborhood.
Officer Paul Beck said 10 people were injured in the suburb. He says two of those injuries are severe but did not have further details.
Assistant Arlington fire chief Jim Self says three people suffered minor injuries there, including two residents of a nursing home who were taken to a hospital after swirling winds clipped the building. Around 50 homes were damaged in the area.
“Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room,” said Joy Johnston, who was visiting her 79-year-old sister at the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
“It was terribly loud.”
At the nearby Omni Mandalay Las Colinas hotel, tornado sirens sounded, alerting guests to get to safety.
“The hotel has not been evacuated but we do have guests under cover,” said a telephone receptionist at 421-room hotel. The storm is believed to have leveled several homes, and tens of thousands of others are without power.
National Weather Service meteorologist Amber Elliott confirmed two separate tornadoes had touched down, one in Arlington, Texas and another in Dallas. Nine separate tornado warnings have been issued by the weather service for the Dallas area so far on Tuesday, she said.
Hail ranging from pea-sized to as large as baseballs pounded Dallas and Fort Worth, the nation’s fourth-most-populous metropolitan area with 6.3 million people.
Multiple news outlets reported homes with their roofs violently torn off.
In Arlington, NBC DFW reporter Mola Lenghi told the network: “There’s lots of 18-wheelers. I’ve never seen this before.”