Tornadoes hammer central Texas

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:22 PM

Chris Vaughn, Domingo Ramirez Jr.

FORT WORTH, Texas — A powerful spring storm swept suddenly into the Dallas-Fort Worth area shortly after lunch on Tuesday, spawning reported tornadoes in Arlington and Kennedale, parts of Johnson County, and in Lancaster and Mesquite in Dallas County.

Television footage showed residential and commercial damage in southwest Arlington and Lancaster, and large hail fell throughout Arlington and then moved through Northeast Tarrant County.

There were no initial reports of injuries or deaths from the storm, but trees were uprooted and blown onto vehicles, roofs were torn off buildings and wood and brick debris littered some neighborhoods.

Another tornado warning was issued for Tarrant County about 2:45 p.m. CDT. It expired within a half-hour.

Early reports indicated damage from the first round of storms to be near Interstate 20 and Kelly Elliott Road, the Kennedale area and South Cooper near the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. The Salvation Army dispatched a mobile kitchen for residents in Kennedale, and another to assist residents in Pleasant Grove.

Kennedale ISD associate superintendent Rick Edwards said the tornado did "a lot of damage in Kennedale," but the kids are OK and the schools are OK.

He said he watched the storm as it bore down on the town. CBS11 News said the twister reached a quarter-mile wide.

"We were very fortunate. When we heard the first report at Burleson we went into duck and cover mode. There’s been no damage to any of our buildings. We saw the tornado, it went right up between Patterson Elementary and the high school buildings, but it went right between them. I saw it. It passed about a mile from our office here."

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck issued a disaster declaration after the storm passed through, paving the way for state and federal aid. Sen. John Cornyn issued a statement saying anyone who needs assistance should contact his office.

Damage was reported to four neighborhoods in Arlington, and there were reports of ruptured gas lines. The gas companies were working to resolve those issues, an Arlington police spokeswoman said.

The massive Parks at Arlington mall at Cooper Street and Interstate 20 shut down, and management ordered shoppers and others into the basement. Employees at Cowboys Stadium were moved into the tunnels.

The Arlington Fire Department reported heavy damage near Lake Arlington at the Green Oaks Nursing Home and asked Fort Worth firefighters to assist with damage and injuries there. About 130 residents were affected after a section of roof blew off and a wall collapsed, according to Fox4 News. Damage was also reported at the Chesterfield Apartments, 5700 Median Way in Arlington.

Despite the storms, the Rangers game vs. the Mexico City Red Devils was still scheduled to go on Tuesday night at the Rangers Ballpark.

Schoolchildren in multiple cities, as well as travelers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field in Dallas, were ordered into "safe zones" and shelters. Golfball-sized hail was reported at DFW.

The widespread storm made it difficult to keep track of funnel clouds and hail storms because so many were happening at once across multiple counties.

People in the line of the storm were urged to seek shelter immediately. Students, public officials and shoppers across DFW were taking cover as the tornadoes touched ground.

DFW Airport officials told passengers to move away from glass windows and to take cover in its storm shelters at its terminals.

The Federal Aviation Administration also issued a ground stop for flights coming into and out of DFW because of the storms.

DFW Airport spokesman David Magana said passengers should expect delays and incoming flights may be diverted to get out of the way of the storm.

American Airlines canceled the rest of its flight schedule out of DFW for the day. It said 68 planes had to be inspected for hail damage.

Trinity Railway Express trains quit running and were not expected to resume until the danger passed, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit official said in an email alert. The commuter rail line runs Monday through Saturday from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas.

The first tornado was spotted near Joshua about 12:44 p.m., according to the weather service, moving northeast at 25 mph.

Johnson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Jones said he was trying to find a place to set up a command center.

"We’ve had a couple of houses hit near Joshua out on 704. As far as I know we have no injuries yet."

Fire officials in Joshua continued to track storms after 2 p.m., and reports were out that some areas of Burleson and Cleburne were similarly damaged from the storm.

Students at Joshua High School were in lock down early this afternoon. Students in Burleson and Arlington were moved to safety zones. At Tarrant County College, students, faculty and staff were advised to stay in the buildings.

A twister touched down about two miles east of Spinks Airport in south Fort Worth as the storm system swept across Tarrant County, according to airport manager Aaron Barth. He said it caused no damage at the airport.

"A tornado came down for maybe 8 to 10 seconds and then lifted back up," Barth said. "It wasn’t down for very long."

Sirens could be heard on the west side of Fort Worth and in the Fort Worth medical district.

A second tornado warning was issued for Dallas and Ellis counties after a tornado was confirmed on the ground in Ellis County near Red Oak.

A tornado near Lancaster in Dallas County reportedly caused power flashes and sent huge debris balls flying into the sky.

The storms could contain large hail, damaging winds and heavy rains, according to the national Weather Service. The rains could cause street flooding.


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