/3 tornadoes tear through Dallas, leveling homes and leaving thousands in North Texas without power

3 tornadoes tear through Dallas, leveling homes and leaving thousands in North Texas without power

After three tornadoes tore through a huge swath of North Texas late Sunday, officials confirmed the best news: No one was killed or badly hurt.

But there was still plenty of heartache.

“Despite the fact that we didn’t lose any lives last night, I think we all know that we’ve suffered some significant property damage in our city,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said.

In some of the hardest-hit areas, homes and other buildings were devastated. Countless trees were destroyed, and thousands of people were still without power Monday evening.

National Weather Service crews were busy tracing the path of the strongest tornado, which cut a nearly 16-mile path from northwest Dallas into Richardson with winds up to 140 mph.

In Rowlett, a less-powerful tornado generated winds up to 100 mph. North of Wills Point in Van Zandt County, another tornado registered 80-mph winds.

Read more: Tornado leaves heavy damage, power outages in its wake after moving through Dallas

The National Weather Service recorded damage from strong winds and hail across North Texas, including Fort Worth, Denton, Corsicana and Greenville. Reports of damage stretched as far as Sherman, about 60 miles north of Dallas.

Richardson and North Dallas sustained some of the heaviest damage, but Oncor’s accounting of outages reflected the storm’s wide path.

At midday, Oncor spokeswoman Kerri Dunn said 55,000 customers were still without power in the Dallas area. In the company’s entire service area, outages affected 95,000.

She said there was no definite timeline to restore power to everyone, and she cautioned that power structures in some areas need to be completely rebuilt.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a local disaster to help get out-of-state resources to help with clean-up and repairs quickly. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 15 North Texas counties, including Dallas, Collin and Tarrant.

After reports overnight of natural-gas leaks, Atmos Energy officials said its technicians had responded to more than 200 calls in the Dallas area. Extra crews were working to investigate every emergency call, the company said.

As firefighters were conducting ongoing seraches of collapsed structures in the area, Dallas Fire-Rescue had its own emergency to respond to. Fire Station 41, on Royal Lane near the Dallas North Tollway, was destroyed by high winds. No firefighters were hurt.

Police, who were helping Dallas-Fire Rescue personnel to direct traffic in areas where signals weren’t working, urged people to remain indoors from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday because of downed power lines and debris in neighborhoods.

Read more: Outages and closures in Dallas after the storm: Here’s what you need to know

Damaged homes near Walnut Hill and Marsh Lane are seen in aerial view of tornado damage on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Dallas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
Damaged homes near Walnut Hill and Marsh Lane are seen in aerial view of tornado damage on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Dallas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

Widespread damage

Joanne Taylor told herself Monday would be the day. She’d get up early and go work out at the Planet Fitness at Walnut Hill and Marsh Lane.

“No more excuses,” she said. “Unless the gym isn’t there anymore.”

Monday morning, the northwest Dallas shopping center where the gym had been was a crumpled pile of steel and concrete.

Water poured out of the La Michoacana market from a broken line, pooling in the parking lot and rushing down the street.

The Planet Fitness was hidden behind a mass of rubble.

“It’s wild,” said Taylor, who had taken shelter in a closet when the tornado came through. “I didn’t realize I’d dodged a bullet until I walked into the neighborhood this morning.”

Behind the shopping complex, roofs were caved in and whole sides of apartment buildings were ripped off.

Angel Govea, 18, had been eating dinner with his family when their phones buzzed with the severe weather alert. About two minutes later, the wind picked up with a loud rumble. As the air pressure dropped, it felt like a mosquito bite in his ears, he said.

The tornado passed just south of his house, knocking down branches and toppling a huge live oak across the street into his front yard.

As he and his family began surveying the damage, they saw that their neighbors were missing roofs and walls.

“We’re feeling something,” Govea said, “but they feel it more.”

All morning, chainsaws buzzed as residents and work crews cleared fallen trees.

Two trees landed in Richard Espinosa’s front yard on Constance Street, near Walnut Hill and Marsh lanes. Another destroyed a fence behind his home.

He recalled how long it had taken to recover from Dallas’ bad storms in June, and with his curb already full by late morning, he knew his cleanup work wasn’t finished.

He doesn’t expect all the debris to be picked up soon, but for now he’s more worried about the essentials.

“No water, no gas, no light,” Espinosa said. “Can’t warm anything up to eat.”

Rachel Gutknecht, 28, looks at the damage in her bedroom where the roof collapsed on top of her bed on Oct. 21, 2019, a day after a tornado devastated homes on Rickshaw Drive in Preston Hollow.
Rachel Gutknecht, 28, looks at the damage in her bedroom where the roof collapsed on top of her bed on Oct. 21, 2019, a day after a tornado devastated homes on Rickshaw Drive in Preston Hollow.(Hayat Norimine)

Rachel Gutknecht, whose apartment was severely damaged by flooding on Rickshaw Drive, tried to salvage anything she could Monday as she and her brother prepared to move in with a friend.

The heavy rain had flooded through to the floor after parts of her ceiling and an HVAC unit collapsed.

She said the changing air pressure right before the tornado blew through caused a massive headache. Moments later, the windows in her bedroom shattered.

“I don’t get scared easily,”Gutknecht said. “I was scared.”

The Home Depot employees A.J. Kobena (center) raises the U.S. flag on the slightly bent flagpole outside the destroyed store on N. Central Expressway in Dallas, Monday, October 21, 2019. Jining him were fellow employees Jonathan Shields and Jordan Jasper. A tornado tore through the entire neighborhood knocking down trees and ripping roofs from homes. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
The Home Depot employees A.J. Kobena (center) raises the U.S. flag on the slightly bent flagpole outside the destroyed store on N. Central Expressway in Dallas, Monday, October 21, 2019. Jining him were fellow employees Jonathan Shields and Jordan Jasper. A tornado tore through the entire neighborhood knocking down trees and ripping roofs from homes. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)

Parts of Lake Highlands sustained serious damage, including Texas Instruments’ south campus near Interstate 635 and Forest Lane.

A company spokeswoman said the campus was closed because of broken windows, debris and water damage. No injuries were reported.

Farther south, the tornado caused heavy damage at a Home Depot near Forest Lane and North Central Expressway. No one was inside when the store was hit.

Damage also was widespread In Preston Hollow, where residents were loading salvaged belongings into their vehicles Monday.

At a house on Eppling Lane, a large tree had uprooted and toppled over in the front yard.

Volunteers were helping with cleanup and directing traffic through the neighborhood.

Heavy roof damage exposed the interior of one home, and a gaping hole appeared to have been blasted through the exterior wall of another home.

Damaged homes in a cul-de-sac on Stillmeadow Drive in Richardson are seen in aerial view of tornado damage on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Richardson, Texas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
Damaged homes in a cul-de-sac on Stillmeadow Drive in Richardson are seen in aerial view of tornado damage on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Richardson, Texas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer)

In one badly damaged Richardson neighborhood, 71-year-old Gizaw Gedlu walked through his home Monday morning as the sun streamed in through large holes in the roof.

“It’s like a war zone, a disaster,” he said. “It’s gone. It’s unbelievable.”

He and his sister Mena hid in the bathroom as the storm tore through. Two bedrooms and the living room were ripped open, tossing his belongings and pink insulation across the floor.

But the kitchen and garage are just as he left them, he said.

Read more: ‘It’s gone:’ Richardson neighbors assess tornado damage to homes

Gedlu, who works as a security guard, said he has insurance, but he isn’t sure when someone will show up. He wants to place tarps on the roof in case it rains again and begin trying to salvage what he can.

His sister was making plans for them to stay in a hotel for the night.

“It’s gone. It’s destroyed,” she said. “Everything is gone.”

Tommy Edmonds, left, embraces his wife, Heidi Edmonds outside of their home, which was destroyed when a tornado hit the night before, on Westway Avenue in Garland, Texas, on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News)
Tommy Edmonds, left, embraces his wife, Heidi Edmonds outside of their home, which was destroyed when a tornado hit the night before, on Westway Avenue in Garland, Texas, on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News)(Ryan Michalesko / Staff Photographer)

In Garland, police reported significant property damage but no serious injuries.

The most severe winds hit between Shiloh Road and Glenbrook Drive, as well as Miller Road and Avenue B, Garland police said. The effects included roof damage, fallen trees, debris, structure damage and downed power lines.

About 5,500 Garland Power and Light customers were without electricity as of 1 a.m. Monday, most in southwestern Garland. The storms took down several transmission lines, which disabled two power substations.

Authorities closed Shiloh Road between Forest Lane and Kingsley Road and warned motorists to be cautious because of malfunctioning traffic lights and downed power lines and other debris.

But officials said it was remarkable the city hadn’t sustained more damage in the tornado that generated winds up to 100 mph.

Rowlett police spokesman Lt. David Nabors said the winds affected only the city’s far northeast side where there are few homes.

One home near President George Bush Tollway and Hickox Road was destroyed and a barn on Larkin Lane also sustained damage, he said.

In Sachse, police said high winds damaged six homes along Eastview Drive, leaving four of them uninhabitable. No injuries were reported.

Police spokesman Martin Cassidy said the homes were near Rowlett, where the most severe damage occurred on the border with Sachse.

He said it was likely the storm had passed over the Bush Turnpike from Sachse to Rowlett. It was unclear whether the damage in Sachse was from a tornado or strong winds.

High winds also blew through northern Ellis County, where officials said Midlothian was most heavily affected by the storms.

Northern Ellis Emergency Dispatch Manager Christine Thompson said officials hadn’t fully assessed the extent of damage in Midlothian.

Kasey Cheshier, executive director of the United Way of West Ellis County, said the storms hit hardest in north Midlothian and Red Oak but that he had not heard of any homes that were uninhabitable.

Businesses near U.S. Highway 67 at North Ninth Street had significant damage, he said.

Transportation

Dallas Area Rapid Transit crews began removing debris and trying to make repairs soon after the tornadoes hit Sunday night, spokesman Gordon Shattles said.

He said branches and wreckage from roofs landed on the overhead catenary lines that power the light-rail trains near the Walnut Hill/Denton station at the intersection of Harry Hines Boulevard and Walnut Hill Lane, close to where the storm hit hardest.

“Teams are out clearing those and trying to verify that those catenary lines are in good shape,” Shattles said.

On Monday morning, DART passengers using the Red and Orange lines, which run along Central Expressway, struggled to get from Plano and Richardson to downtown Dallas because of power outages. Service to downtown was available only from Park Lane Station.

Blue Line service between downtown Rowlett and Garland also was disrupted.

Shattles said the agency expected for service to resume normally on the Red, Orange and Blue lines by peak ridership times abut 5 p.m.

He added, however, that because of heavy damage in northwest Dallas, Green Line service may be a bit slower to fully restore, Shattles said.

“Our teams continue to work diligently to resume service. … [Bus shuttles] will be provided where needed,” Shattles said. “We’ll do our best to keep everyone informed.”

Insurance

Hundreds of insurance claims already had been filed by early Monday, said Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas.

Hanna said the only North Texas weather event from recent years that compares to Sunday night’s in scale occurred Dec. 26, 2015, when at least nine tornadoes tore through the area, killing 11 people.

That storm’s insured losses were estimated at $1.2 billion. The Dec. 26 tornado, with winds up to 180 mph, traveled 13 miles and had a maximum width of 550 yards, according to the National Weather Service.

As of Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service had not described the path or other details of the reported tornadoes, but it’s likely Sunday night’s traveled farther than the 2015 one did, Hanna said.

He said it will take at least a couple of days to assess all of the damage, project the number of claims and place a dollar loss on the storm.

State Farm spokesman Chris Pilcic warned residents to be wary of door-to-door solicitors who may try to take advantage of residents in the aftermath of the storm.

He also recommended that people save receipts for home repairs.

“Often in your homeowner’s insurance policy, you’ll have coverage for making temporary repairs,” Pilcic said. “Whether you go out and buy a tarp or plywood and do that work yourself or you hire someone to do it, make sure you save those receipts and take pictures of the temporary work you’ve done until you meet with your insurance company.”

Interabang Books in Preston Royal Shopping Center was one of dozens of businesses destroyed or damaged by Sunday night's tornado.
Interabang Books in Preston Royal Shopping Center was one of dozens of businesses destroyed or damaged by Sunday night’s tornado.(Robert Wilonsky / Staff writer)

Restaurants and business closures

At least 11 restaurants and businesses in the Preston Road-Royal Lane area of Dallas were closed because of storm damage Monday morning.

Employees at Fish City Grill hunkered down inside a walk-in cooler as the storm ravaged the restaurant and nearby businesses around it, including Interabang Books and Central Market.

“It’s like a bomb went off,” said Bill Payne, Fish City Grill’s co-founder.

TV station apologizes

In a statement Monday evening, KXAS-TV (NBC5) apologized for not immediately interrupting Sunday night’s Dallas Cowboys football game with a tornado warning. The station delayed breaking into programming for six minutes, it said.

“When it comes to dealing with severe weather, we know that seconds matter,” the station’s statement read. “We should have broken into football programming sooner. We apologize and want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again.”

How to help or get help

Dallas’ mayor said the city did not need anyone to donate food, water or other items. People who want to help may donate money to Dallas’ emergency assistance fund here.

Anyone who needs shelter can go to the Bachman Recreation Center in northwest Dallas.

Organizations including the North Texas Food Bank and the Salvation Army are among the organizations offering assistance.

Read more: What D-FW organizations are doing to help those affected by the Dallas tornado

Staff writers Hayat Norimine, Eva-Marie Ayala, Dom DiFurio, Sarah Blaskovich, Maria Halkias, Melissa Repko and Hannah Costley contributed to this report.