As a nasty thunderstorm rumbled toward his brand-new greenhouses, Scott Peterson raced to save his plants.
Then came the straight-line winds and stinging rain.
“It just started raining and everything went crazy,” Peterson said Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after the storm hit. “Plastic just started fluttering and it was noisy as heck. … There was stuff blowing all over the place.”
When the front doors to one of his greenhouses blew in, Peterson dashed to his Ford F-150 pickup parked out front, where he waited more than 10 minutes for the dark cloud to pass.
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“I had my headlights on and my truck actually felt like it was drifting across the parking lot,” Peterson said.
Radar indicates that winds in excess of 70 mph pummeled the Burleson area, part of a fast and furious storm that unleashed at least three tornadoes and damaged homes and businesses, uprooted trees and knocked out electricity to thousands of customers.
National Weather Service meteorologist Patricia Sanchez said the storm system, which moved into the DFW area about 2 a.m., produced a series of downbursts, or unusually intense winds.
“There are some areas that we will see these much stronger winds while there are other areas that will have little or no wind at all,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes, they can be just a few miles apart.”
On Thursday, a survey team with the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-0 tornado, with wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph, touched down in north Fort Worth near U.S. 287 and Bonds Ranch Road and stayed on the ground to Texas 170 and Alta Vista Road.
It was the second confirmed tornado in northern Tarrant County. Another survey team confirmed Wednesday that a tornado touched down near Western Center Boulevard and stayed on the ground for 10.75 miles to the intersection of Farm Road 1709 and Shady Oaks Drive in Southlake. The storm’s path included damage along U.S. 377 on the border of Watauga and Keller. An EF-1 tornado, with wind speeds of 86 to 10 mph, was also confirmed in Lewisville.
Most of the damage inflicted across North Texas early Wednesday came from straight-line winds.
Trees snapped like twigs and in some instances were pulled from the ground before falling — to the misfortune of some — on cars parked along streets or in driveways. Shingles were peeled from rooftops. Power lines were knocked down, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power. And Wednesday morning’s rush hour was an exercise in patience, with traffic lights offline and blinking and curious commuters riding their brakes to gawk at the overnight damage, including a 7-Eleven sign that had blown into the median along Interstate 35W near Burleson.
Because they had no power, the Mansfield and Glen Rose school districts closed entirely, and a handful or Arlington schools were also forced to shut down, delaying the administering of state-mandated STAAR tests until Thursday.
Tornado sirens blared across Tarrant County between 2 and 2:30 a.m., and the tornado that hit the Keller-Watauga border damaged a Home Depot, including storage sheds that had been turned upside down like building blocks.
Straight-line winds produced gusts ranging from 75 mph in Frisco to 83 mph in north Fort Worth to 95 mph in Rockwall, east of Dallas.
National Weather Service teams were in the Keller-Watauga, Rockwall and Lewisville areas on Wednesday and will continue to survey damage on Thursday, in Hood County and the Mansfield area.
In Burleson, the storm hit just three days before Saturday’s grand opening of Peterson’s Roots Garden Center at 2117 E. Renfro St.
The grand opening will still be held, but the greenhouses, which total about 7,000-square feet, will now be open-air.
Peterson considers the storm a slight setback. He estimates it will take about $7,000 to replace the plastic covering.
“It will all be worth it,” Peterson said. “This has always been a dream of mine since I was a young child.”
He said surprisingly few plants were damaged. And some, sitting unprotected outside the greenhouse, looked as if the storm passed politely over them.
“It knocked a few over, but for the most part, they remain untouched,” Peterson said.
Staff writers Domingo Ramirez Jr., Mark David Smith and Azia Branson contributed to this report.