Arlington man describes quick-hitting storm

Friday morning, Piyar Ali stood in the middle of debris at Butt Stop Discount Cigarettes on West Division Street, thankful that he was standing at all.

Eighteen hours before, Ali and another employee had blocked the door of the shop with their bodies, trying to keep it from flying open as a storms packing high winds and some rain slammed North Texas, causing extensive damage in many neighborhoods.

“It got dark,” Ali said. “The wind picked up quickly and it was crazy. I could see across the street a sign being bent over, and that’s when we went to the door because I thought it was going to shatter.”

Ali said they abandoned their efforts at the door a few seconds later.

“I saw things going through the air, and we ran to the back of the store,” he said. “A few minutes later, here comes the debris from the ceiling and water is inside the building.”

But just as quickly as the afternoon storm arrived, it moved on. Ali and his employee escaped without injuries.

“When we went outside, we saw that the winds had damaged our roof,” Ali said.

The National Weather Service reported that wind speeds during the fast-moving squall line were close to 90 mph near Arlington Baptist College and the University of Texas at Arlington, not far from the cigarette shop.

In Fort Worth, top wind speeds of about 80 mph were reported.

Although there were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes, the weather service said, “Available evidence suggests that the wind damage was caused by straight-line thunderstorm winds and not by tornadoes.”

A fourth-grade teacher at Lamar Elementary School in Denison, about 60 miles north of Dallas, was hospitalized after she was shocked while holding an umbrella and helping a student get to a parent’s vehicle Thursday afternoon, a school official said. She is expected to recover.

Dan Shoemaker, a National Weather Service forecaster in Fort Worth, said such storms are more common in the spring, but Texas does have a secondary storm season in the fall.

“We’ve been in this drought so we just hadn’t had a lot of storms. People tend to have short-term memories that these happen,” Shoemaker said.

The Arlington school district canceled classes at all 75 campuses Friday amid power outages, and the Dallas district called off classes at 48 campuses that lost electricity. The University of Texas at Arlington and the Dallas campus of the University of North Texas also called off classes.

Oncor reported late Friday that more than 116,000 customers across Dallas-Fort Worth remained without power Friday morning, down from 300,000 overnight. Most of the disruptions came when trees were blown into power lines and when electricity poles were blown over.

Jeamy Molina, a spokeswoman for Oncor, described the storm as “deceptive” because it didn’t last long as it swept across the Metroplex.

“But it caused severe damage across the area,” Molina said. “Our crews have been working overnight.”

She said crews were having to remove trees and limbs from power lines before service could be restored and that workers from eight different utility companies from across the United States were assisting.

She did not have a time estimate on when power would be fully restored. Oncor’s website has a map that customers can use to look up power outages in their area.

No shelter from storm

Mary Lee Hafley, chief operating officer of SafeHaven of Tarrant County, split her attention between a power outage at the Arlington shelter and a roof at the Fort Worth shelter that was damaged by fallen tree limbs.

The Fort Worth shelter was already a construction site because of flooding during the spring. Thursday’s storm damaged construction materials and overturned a portable toilet, spilling its contents, Hafley said in a news release.

Also, tree limbs fell on cars parked in the shelter’s lot.

However, the Fort Worth shelter is usable, so food from the Arlington shelter was moved to Fort Worth to keep it from spoiling, Hafley said. On Friday, 20 women and 40 children were in the Arlington shelter waiting for power to be restored.

“The big problem is how to manage 60 people in a dark building,” she said. “Today, we ordered pizza.”

Hafley said people who need there services should not hesitate to call. The phone calls will be forwarded and it may take a little while longer to get through, Hafley said.

“We’re still taking clients, and we don’t want this to keep people from reaching out to us if they need help,” Hafley said.

Parts of Arlington clobbered

Some of the worst damage came in Arlington.

“We’ve really just begun this morning to do an extensive assessment of the damage,” Arlington Fire Department spokesman Lt. Lee Tovar said. “Even after all this from last night, there was only one reported injury.”

That minor injury came when high winds blew the roof off a dorm at Arlington Baptist College on West Division Street, he said.

Several units were damaged at the Woodland West Apartments, 2601 Lynnwood Drive, and the wall of one building fell at the Arbors of Arlington apartments, 1010 E. Arkansas Lane, Tovar said. No injuries were reported. A home in east Arlington was also left uninhabitable after its roof was blown off, he said.

Arlington residents were asked to cut downed limbs and branches into 4-foot sections and place them at the curb for removal, not on sidewalks or in the streets.

In the new Viridian development, where a Kaleidoscope of Homes was scheduled to kick off Friday, a huge tent was ripped up, fences were blown over and trees were uprooted, delaying the opening until Oct. 10.

Stockyards wall collapse

In the Fort Worth Stockyards, where heavy winds toppled a brick wall of the Stockyards Lodge 1244, workers removed debris and shored up the building Friday afternoon.

Bricks from the entire back of the building fell onto vehicles and the ground around The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, The Love Shack and the White Elephant Saloon — all owned by chef Tim Love.

The Lonesome Dove was closed Friday but a message on Love’s office phone said to check back on Saturday for updates. Employees reported that both the Love Shack and White Elephant Saloon were open on Friday.

Steve Murrin, known as the mayor of the Stockyards, said Friday that it appeared that the building could be saved. Friday evening, workers were removing fallen bricks and preparing to brace one of the still standing walls, just as a precaution, Murrin said.

“It’s structurally sound,” Murrin said Friday.

Main Street between 24th Street and Exchange Avenue remained closed Friday afternoon as crews worked on the damaged building, but Murrin expected it to be open Saturday morning.

‘Perfect weather’ ahead

The weather this weekend looks fantastic, said Steve Fano, a meteorologist at the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service.

The low Friday night was expected to drop into the 50s, Fano said. Saturday may get up to 70 degrees with sunny skies, Fano said.

“Perfect Texas State Fair weather,” Fano said.

It will get warmer and more humid as Monday approaches and a 20 percent chance of rain will creep into the forecast Sunday evening, Fano said. High temperatures Sunday and Monday could reach the 80s and low temperatures are expected to dip into the 60s.

A weak upper level disturbance will come through the area late Sunday and bring a slight chance of rain to the area.

“But it will be nothing like Thursday,” Fano said.

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