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Tornadoes cause damage, injuries in Dallas-Fort Worth area

Lancaster and Arlington are declared disaster areas, flights are canceled and emergency responders are scrambling to tally the devastation.

April 03, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
  • A woman talks on her phone outside a heavily damaged house after a tornado moved through Lancaster, Texas.
A woman talks on her phone outside a heavily damaged house after a tornado… (Larry W. Smith, European…)

HOUSTON — Multiple tornadoes ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth area Tuesday, tossing truck trailers like Tinkertoys, damaging hundreds of homes and causing numerous injuries, some critical.

The mayor of Lancaster, a suburb about 15 miles south of Dallas, saw one of the twisters approach.

"I was leaving a meeting here in town and heard the tornado sirens go off," Mayor Marcus Knight said at a news conference.

After the tornado struck, Knight said multiple injuries were reported, sending some victims to the hospital. No fatalities were reported, he said.

PHOTOS: Texas tornadoes

At least 300 structures were damaged, half of them severely, he said.

The city was declared a disaster area and its recreation center was converted into a shelter. Dallas County sheriff's deputies responded to reports of looting, and Sheriff Lupe Valdez toured the area, a spokeswoman said.

A curfew was imposed overnight and part of the city was blockaded, Knight said.

"The public's safety is paramount," he said.

About 30 miles northwest, a tornado tore through Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers, causing significant damage to homes and businesses, including a nursing home. That city's mayor signed a disaster declaration.

To the southwest in Burleson, Spinks Airport manager Aaron Barth also spotted a tornado approaching shortly before 1 p.m.

"The rotation was present there and slowly descended down, touched down for about 15 seconds one to two miles east," he said.

As he watched, the twister veered away from the airport, causing no injuries or damage, Barth said.

Elsewhere, tornadoes tossed tractor-trailers, ripped the roofs off houses, churned walls into planks and strewed them across suburban streets.

Emergency responders were still trying to tally damages late Tuesday.

"I can't give damage assessment numbers because the storm system is so broad-based; it's covering such a wide swath of the region," said Maria Anita, a Dallas County spokeswoman.

At least 12,000 people were without power in Fort Worth after the tornadoes hit, a Tarrant County spokesman said.

American Airlines canceled nearly all departures from its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Tuesday evening and diverted others to different airports, said Fort Worth-based American spokesman Tim Smith.

An airport spokesman, David Magana, said 405 flights were canceled and 110 planes damaged by hail. It wasn't clear how many belonged to American, which along with American Eagle had pulled 101 planes out of service for damage inspections.

At Dallas Love Field, passengers were forced to evacuate and take temporary shelter during the storm, and Southwest Airlines canceled more than 45 flights.

PHOTOS: Texas tornadoes

molly.hennessey-fiske@latimes.com

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