Storm pelts North Texas, causes damage; Wind makes most trouble, but no serious injuries reported

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 6B

For about half an hour Thursday afternoon, North Texas was under intense aquatic assault.

Sheets of rain pelted anyone foolish enough to be outside, wind gales slammed into buildings, and creeks ran angry and full.

But like March’s own cliched path – in like a lion, out like a lamb – the storm’s narrow band passed into calm quickly, leaving behind scattered minor damage and no reports of serious injuries.

Winds reached up to 80 mph. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for 47 Texas counties, including the entire Dallas metro area.

But most of the damage came from straight-line winds, a weather service official said. Across the region, several roofs and power lines were lost.

The storm’s timing – when school buses were preparing to take children home or to after-school events – forced changes at some area schools. Evening sporting events were canceled in Fort Worth and Lewisville. Denton schools delayed the normal dismissal time, and the Carroll school district didn’t allow students and faculty to leave their campuses for two hours. In Forney, winds blew a school bus off the road, but no children were injured.

Dallas police recorded more than 60 road accidents within three hours, including one involving more than a dozen cars on Interstate 35E at Marsalis Avenue.

Several families were displaced in Ellis County when their homes were damaged. The American Red Cross opened a temporary shelter Thursday night at Bowie Elementary School, 501 Jetter Drive in Ennis.

“We try to provide for their emergency needs in the first 72 hours, but we also set people up in hotels and long-term shelters,” said Dwain Elliott of the American Red Cross Dallas Chapter.

In Collin County, a gymnasium wall collapsed and the roof blew off at Farmersville Intermediate School. Officials said classes in the Farmersville district would be canceled Friday.

Some mobile homes were damaged or destroyed near Copeville, also in Collin County.

Jessie Strayhorn called it a “miracle” that his brother-in-law and nephew were spared when winds lifted their mobile home from its foundation and shattered it.

“I’ve been in tornadoes before, so I know how devastating they can be,” said Mr. Strayhorn, who lives in Caddo Mills, about 15 miles east of Copeville, where severe winds knocked down power lines, lifted roofs off homes and scattered debris. “I’m just happy they’re alive.”

At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, officials halted takeoffs and landings for about 30 minutes, forcing about 40 flights to seek other places to land.

The rainfall – up to 2 inches – hit an already saturated ground. The airport is 3.25 inches above normal for rainfall this year.

In Irving, Fire Department rescuers were called to a creek when a girl was reportedly swept away by a burgeoning creek. A neighbor pulled the girl out before rescuers arrived, fire officials said.

The storm caused significant damage as it swept through areas west and south of Dallas-Fort Worth. A small tornado overturned mobile homes in Jones County and winds ripped off awnings in Stephens County.

A greenhouse in Montague was destroyed, and a Killeen restaurant lost its top. Other damage was reported in Erath, Archer, Mitchell and Baylor counties.

Winds knocked out power in scattered areas around the Dallas area, including parts of Fort Worth, Kennedale, Rowlett and Seagoville.

But by 4 p.m., the sun was shining brightly over downtown Dallas.

Staff writers Gretel C. Kovach, Lesley T?llez, Stella Chavez, Jennifer Packer and Jeff Mosier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.