Tornadoes damage homes in rural Wise county
After a tornado warning was issued for the Boonsville area Tuesday night, Christina Lopez and her husband, Pablo, tried to flee their small mobile-home community.
But the gate wouldn’t open, having been slammed shut by the strong winds. The couple were forced to ride out the storm in their car under a stand of trees.
“We couldn’t see anything,” Lopez said. “The rain was coming down so hard. We could feel the vehicle lifting off the ground.”
Afterward, Lopez opened the car door and saw that most of the homes — five of the six — were gone. The only one left standing, which had been unoccupied, was resting next to the trees where the couple had sat in their car.
“I was in shock,” Lopez said. “I started screaming. I had no idea we had lost everything.”
By Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office had confirmed two EF-1 tornadoes, one near Runaway Bay, on the south end of Lake Bridgeport, and the other in Mineral Wells. Preliminary reports and videos shot Tuesday evening indicate that up to three others touched down: two outside Palo Pinto and another east of Waxahachie. No injuries or deaths were reported.
Twelve or 13 homes were heavily damaged in Boonsville, Wise County Judge J.D. Clark said. Some residents were displaced, but no one was injured, he said.
“It’s been quite a week and a half,” Clark said of the barrage of thunderstorms.
Christina Lopez’s tale was among the most harrowing from this round of storms. The twisted metal frame of the couple’s home was on the ground, and the rest of it was about 5 feet away, pulverized into a pile of debris.
“If we had been in our home, I don’t think we would be alive,” Lopez said. “All of this can be replaced. I’m just glad we’re all OK.”
Most importantly, she found the urn containing the ashes of her older brother, Thomas Bryant, who died April 9 of heart failure.
“We had the funeral a few weeks ago,” Lopez said. “We had made a memorial to him in our living room.”
The Runaway Bay community, about 50 miles northwest of Fort Worth, had roofs ripped off condominiums and other structures damaged.
A few businesses in downtown Mineral Wells were damaged when the twister touched down about 7 p.m., police said.
Priest Balaji Boyalla had just pulled into the driveway of the church rectory when the hail started. He ran inside, and that’s when he heard the tornado.
“I just ran into the bathroom, and then from the bathroom I saw through the window there was a heavy wind that was just blowing around. Within seconds, I heard lots of noise — the trees falling and the roof flying from one place to another place and things,” Boyalla said.
When the storm passed, he walked outside and saw that the church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, had been heavily damaged. Windows were blown out, and the bell tower from the chapel, built in the 1930s, was destroyed.
City Manager Lance Howerton said that he was not aware of any storm-related injuries and that power had been restored downtown, except for a few isolated buildings, by about 9:30 a.m.
“We are quite fortunate that the damage was fairly isolated, and we are well on our way to getting this under control and back to normal,” Howerton said.
Boyalla said that if he been just a minute or two later getting home, he would have been in his car or outside for the worst of the storm.
“I barely escaped, I would say,” he said.
Just down the road, volunteers from the First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells were chopping up and clearing away downed trees and sweeping up broken glass. Part of a wall blown out by the storm had been covered with a tarp.
Maintenance supervisor Steve Richards said the church had an outpouring of support from other churches and its own members and did not have an issue with looting through the night.
The church’s 1920s stained-glass windows were also damaged, Richards said.
Services were canceled Wednesday, but Richards said they plan to hold Sunday’s service in the main sanctuary, with or without electricity, which has not been restored.
Tabitha White was out hauling away downed trees with her husband early Wednesday. The roof of White’s boutique was ripped off during Saturday’s storms, and she said the community immediately came out to help her.
She was paying it forward Wednesday.
“We wanted to come repay the favor. This is human spirit in action,” White said, having just finished hauling away branches as her husband used a power saw on the downed trees.
The historic Baker Hotel, where a major renovation is planned, was spared. Downtown had extensive damage. The juvenile probation office — which also houses the county constable, the Precinct 5 justice of the peace, a county tax office, the county fire marshal and the Mineral Wells museum — had the roof ripped off, said Robert Kimbrell, chief of the probation office.
The area was roped off because the building, dating to 1904, is not structurally sound.
Joe Folly, who owns the Black Horse, a deli and bakery next door, was out cleaning up debris.
He said he wouldn’t be able to reopen until Monday. His food went bad when electricity was lost Tuesday night. Windows were cracked, and his roof might have been damaged.
“It is all you can do, isn’t it?” Folly said, as he continued to sweep bricks and dust away from the sidewalk.
Mayor Mike Allen saw the wall cloud from his home after the tornado had lifted.
“It appears to have been short-lived,” Allen said. “It looks like it touched down and went back up pretty quickly.”
In Krum, north of Denton, which has been plagued by flooding, several families fled their homes early Wednesday as rains caused more flooding in northwest Denton County, officials said. A branch of Hickory Creek was flooded from storms that dumped as much as 3 inches of rain.
“Water got very close to the homes, but we had notified many residents before the rains came, and most left,” said Jody Gonzalez, Denton County emergency management coordinator. “A few stayed.”
Gonzalez estimated that five homes in the Krum area had water near them.
Denton County officials were also monitoring a neighborhood just south of Lake Ray Roberts where water has been released the past few days because of the recent torrential rains. No evacuations had been ordered there.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that Lake Bridgeport, which has been battered by the drought and dropped to 37.6 percent full three months ago, is now 68.6 percent full.
“It has come up about 3 feet, from 823 to 826” since Tuesday, weather service meteorologist Matt Stalley said.
Stalley said some areas of Jack and Wise counties saw 4 to 5 inches of rain.
“The whole area to the west and northwest was in a favorable environment for severe storms to develop, and that’s what happened,” Stalley said.
There’s a 50 percent chance for thunderstorms overnight across Central Texas, which will move north into the Metroplex Thursday morning.
Staff writers Monica S. Nagy, Domingo Ramirez Jr., Patrick M. Walker and Lee Williams contributed to this report.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698