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Texas tornadoes: Hundreds of homes damaged in Dallas-Fort Worth

April 04, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • A tornado left a path of destruction in the Fort Worth suburb of Kennedale, Texas.
A tornado left a path of destruction in the Fort Worth suburb of Kennedale,… (Khampha Bouaphanh / Fort…)

Reporting from Houston — The Dallas-Fort Worth area was recovering Wednesday morning after more than a dozen tornadoes slammed the suburbs the day before, damaging hundreds of homes and injuring several residents. Some compared the dramatic twisters to the one in “The Wizard of Oz.”

American Red Cross officials said at least 650 homes had been significantly damaged and residents displaced.

But officials in some of the hardest-hit areas said no fatalities had been reported as of early Wednesday.

PHOTOS: Texas tornadoes

The National Weather Service's Fort Worth office had teams in the field assessing damage; the office's Facebook page described the tornadoes as EF2 and EF1, and the service's website posted an interactive map showing how the strip of reported tornadoes ran through the heavily populated suburbs.

In Lancaster, a suburb about 15 miles south of Dallas, at least 10 people were injured and 300 structures damaged. More than 200 people showed up at a shelter set up at the city’s recreation center, although most found other housing and only eight stayed overnight, officials said.

A curfew declared Tuesday was lifted Wednesday, but a blockade in the heavily damaged neighborhoods was to remain in effect until 7 p.m.

"I am a man of faith and so I believe clearly ... a higher power was involved," Lancaster Mayor Marcus Knight said at a Wednesday morning briefing, noting that a more severe tornado that hit in 1994 killed three residents.

He declared a disaster in Lancaster, as did the mayor in Arlington, where a tornado damaged about 40 homes as well as a wing of a nursing home.

In Forney, about 25 miles northeast of Lancaster, about 20 homes were damaged, as was an elementary school that had been evacuated, City Manager Brian Brooks told The Times.

Dallas officials said the city itself largely escaped damage.

“The Dallas-Fort Worth area really dodged a bullet," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CNN.

On Wednesday, North Texas American Red Cross teams fanned out across the area, assessing damage and delivering meals and cleaning supplies, spokeswoman Anita Foster told The Times.

The Red Cross opened two shelters late Tuesday that served 150 people, many of whom were expected again Wednesday night, Foster said.

She said officials had expected to be battered by “an average Texas thunderstorm” Tuesday and didn’t detect signs of tornadoes until shortly before they hit.

“Thank goodness it was during the day and not at night, because people were able to get the news” and take cover, she said.

Foster pointed out that although residents of north Texas are accustomed to twisters -- Texas reports more tornadoes than any other state, according to the National Climatic Data Center -- most buildings don’t have basements in which people can take cover during the storms.

“So when you have these monster tornadoes touch down, it’s really just a bunch of walls. There’s very few underground locations,” Foster said of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, known as the Metroplex.

“The Metroplex is the ninth-largest metro area in the country, we’re 6.1 million people spread out over a large area. So when you start seeing these large tornadoes touch down, that’s enough to make anyone’s hair stand on end," she said. "Without basements, we have to be more prepared than most.”

The storm skirted local airports, but dumped hail on planes and tied up flights. About 1,400 travelers were stranded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport overnight, and about 240 departing flights had been canceled Wednesday, an airport spokesman said.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com   

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