They were watching football when the sky fell without warning, Dallas tornado survivors say
© Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/TNS A portable building with classrooms at Cary Jr. High School in Dallas, Texas was totally destroyed by a tornado, Monday, October 21, 2019.
DALLAS — Angela Boston crawled to a closet with her daughters when wind and rain started to bear down on their home late Sunday night.
© Jeffrey McWhorter/Dallas Morning News/TNS Brett Murack, 32, looks at where his chimney collapsed into his living room during Sunday night's tornado on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Dallas, Texas.
“There was no time for a warning,” she said Monday morning while surveying the damage to her home just north of Walnut Hill Lane.
The back of her house is gone.
The fence is in crumbles.
Tree limbs cover her front yard.
Boston and her family had just gotten home from the Texas State Fair when they decided to heat up some leftovers and sit down to watch the Dallas Cowboys game.
That’s when a tornado fell from the sky, cutting a 17-mile path of destruction through north Dallas. The tornado struck near Love Field Airport about 9 p.m. Sunday and moved northeast through the city, ending near Sachse, Star-Telegram media partner WFAA reported.
© Jeffrey McWhorter/Dallas Morning News/TNS Shea Sumlin (center), lead pastor of Northway Church, pauses as he and fellow pastors Jonathan Woodlief, left, and Matt Younger, right, survey damage at the church building caused by Sunday night's tornado on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Dallas, Texas.
Boston said she had to quickly evacuate her home last night because a tree fell on her gas line, cutting it.
“You could hear the gas and smell it,” she said.
Monday morning was the first time she returned to her street, and it was the first time she saw the damage under daylight.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It looks like a war zone.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson during a Monday morning news conference echoed the words of a lot of residents: “I think we should consider ourselves very fortunate that we did not lose any lives — no fatalities and no serious injuries – in last night’s storms,” he said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued a disaster declaration for 16 counties, including Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Hunt and Tarrant, that were hard hit by the severe weather.
© Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/TNS A Dallas ISD school district police patrol car was destroyed by a tornado at Cary Jr. High School in Dallas, Texas, Monday, October 21, 2019.
The declaration will help communities with state resources and temporarily waive some regulations and let utility companies bring in resources to help, for instance, with restoring power.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a local declaration of disaster on Monday morning.
“We are asking residents to please stay away from affected areas unless you must be there to protect your own safety and allow first responders to their jobs as quickly and safely as possible,” he said.
Eight blocks south of Boston’s house, Alex Juarez and his neighbors were cleaning up what they could before noon on Monday.
A tree fell on his house and several cars parked in the street. An uprooted tree filled his neighbor’s front yard.
He, like Boston, was at home watching the Cowboys.
© Jeffrey McWhorter/Dallas Morning News/TNS Maricela Chanaa, checks on her neighbor Lily Thompson, 7, as Lily's mother Lesley Thompson holds her younger brother Reed, 4, the morning after Sunday night's tornado on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Dallas, Texas.
“We heard popping and trees falling and then the windows broke,” he said. “The first thing we did was just drop.”
Boston’s and Juarez’s neighbors had similar stories: Most were at home watching football when “all of the sudden” the sky fell. They received little warning and hadn’t expected the worst.
“We got a warning on our cellphones but that was it,” Dennis Martinez said.
© Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/TNS All the windows on the backside of Cary Jr. High School in Dallas, Texas are broken from the tornado, Monday, October 21, 2019.
Rocky Vaz, director of Dallas’ Office of Emergency Management, said they were notified of a tornado warning at 9:01 p.m. Sunday and all sirens were activated by 9:03 p.m.
Across the street from Martinez’s house on Kinkaid Drive, power lines wrapped around a black pickup truck and a giant hole could be seen in the roof of David G. Burnet Elementary.
The neighbors all have at least a third thing in common: They’re thankful they’re OK.
© Ryan Michalesko/Dallas Morning News/TNS A collapsed building, damaged from a tornado the night before is seen near West Miller Road and South Shiloh Road in Garland, Texas, on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.
“You can replace a house,” Boston said.
“If you didn’t believe in miracles before, believe now,” she said.
In a neighborhood along Glenrio Lane north of Walnut Hill Lane, roofs were blown off homes and two-story townhouses were reduced to their first floor.
Residents dug through what was salvageable while trying to cut through fallen trees.
One woman, who didn’t give her name, said she feels unsafe digging through her friend’s destroyed townhome, but said she’s thankful no one was seriously injured.
Much of Walnut Lane was been closed, causing traffic snarls. Dallas police blocked off several businesses along the road as fire and rescue crews worked in the area.
The Planet Fitness behind a CVS at Walnut Hill and Marsh lanes appeared to be gone. DD’s Discount is missing part of its roof. Across the street, boards covered the blown out windows at Velvet Elvis Lounge. In the parking lot, a truck carrying a trailer blew over and landed on a Jeep.
© Jeffrey McWhorter/Dallas Morning News/TNS A smashed car sits under a fallen tree on Beutel Court just north of Walnut Hill after Sunday night's tornado Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Dallas, Texas.
David Finto, who has owned Eagle Cleaners at 3720 Walnut Hill Lane for 30 years, said he arrived to the store early Monday morning. The floors are covered in gravel and water and the windows are boarded up.
Finto said he’ll be able to reopen when the power is turned back on. But he’s not worried about that.
“This is my community,” he said. “I have customers who are now like friends who live here.”
Nearby, part of the roof and two air conditioning units were missing from Northway Church. Glass littered the grass and there was water damage inside the building.
But, like nearly everyone else in north Dallas, Pastor Jonathan Woodlief’s worries are not about the building.
“The church is the people,” he said.
The pastor has been making calls to members to see if they’re OK. Many of his members were out in the neighborhoods to the north helping their neighbors clean up. Others were in the church’s parking lot handing out bottles of water and Gatorade.
Directly across the street, Edward H. Cary Middle School was in shambles. Power lines lay across the chain link fence that surrounds the school. Debris littered the front lawn and the roof over the front of the school was gone. The fire alarm was still sounding just before 12:30 p.m.
There were reports that Thomas Jefferson High School, Walnut Hill Elementary School and Pershing Elementary School also sustained damage. The Dallas Independent School District canceled classes for many of its northwest schools on Monday. Some without damage will reopen when power is restored.
© Jeffrey McWhorter/Dallas Morning News/TNS A broken utility pole hangs upside down on Coppedge Lane north of Walnut Hill after Sunday night's tornado on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Dallas, Texas.
However, school leaders were visiting campuses on Monday to develop a plan on how to move forward.
Dallas Stars player Tyler Seguin’s home near the Dallas North Tollway and Royal Lane was heavily damaged. Photos show the roof was blown off with debris strewn across the lawn.
“I am safe,” Seguin said on Twitter. “Luckily this is my house for sale and I have moved into a new one. I just left the area and it is an extremely sad sight to see. Prayers to everyone affected by the tornado.”
By 2 p.m., 59,780 people were without power in Dallas County. In Tarrant County, 3,789 people were without power. Oncor said the company is asking customers to prepare for possible extended outages of more than a day.
Field officers with Dallas Animal Services were patrolling areas affected by the storm searching for lost pets to help reunite with their owners.
“We are also diligently working with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to support people who have pets that were affected by the tornado last night,” the group said on Facebook. “There is temporary shelter located at Bachman Recreation Center where pet food and kennels will be supplied for people staying there with their pets.”
Jason Godwin, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told The Associated Press that the size and severity of the tornado won’t be known until crews arrive to survey the damage. NWS warning coordination meteorologist Jennifer Dunn told the AP there may have been two or more tornadoes in north Texas, but reiterated that the extent wouldn’t be known until later Monday afternoon.
Just before 2, the NWS confirmed two touchdowns, an EF-1 tornado in Rowlett with an estimated maximum winds of 100 mph and an EF-0 tornado in Van Zandt County north of Wills Point with winds of 80 mph.
Looking at his own damage, Finto said it’s hard to believe the damage a stronger tornado could do.
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