A fast-moving storm suddenly dropped an isolated funnel cloud out of the sky over north Fort Worth on Thursday afternoon, surprising meteorologists and emergency management officials.
The area had been under severe thunderstorm warnings much of the day, and rain had fallen across parts of Tarrant County. Then, about 4:15 p.m., the funnel cloud was spotted near Interstate 35W between Northeast 28th Street and Meacham Boulevard.
The staff of the National Weather Service saw the funnel cloud from their office.
“It was certainly a decent-looking cell on radar,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Huckaby. “We did see a rotating funnel cloud just north of our office, with debris that would have come from the direction of that bank building.”
The bank building was Compass Bank at Meacham Boulevard and Interstate 35W where the wind peeled off a decorative roof that covered the air-conditioning units, said Juan Ortiz, the Fort Worth emergency management coordinator.
The actual roof was not damaged, Ortiz said.
The weather service will not confirm that the funnel cloud was a tornado until investigators assess the damage on Friday.
David Robison, a project manager for railroad company Polivka International, was on the first floor of the building when the storm swooped in.
“Just like working for the railroad. You could hear [the funnel cloud] like a train going by,” said Robison. “Material was blowing sideways. It moved my truck about a foot and a half away from the curb.”
Robison’s pickup was one of several vehicles damaged as giant curls of sheet-metal roofing blew into the parking lot.
Robison took video with his smartphone of what appeared to be a white funnel cloud heading northeast toward Haltom City a few seconds after the building was hit. Robison said he just stayed toward the center of his office during the impact of the storm, but at no point felt like his life was in danger.
Material was blowing sideways. It moved my truck about a foot and a half away from the curb.
David Robison, who was in Compass Bank
A Quik Trip station near Northeast 28th Street, just west of I-35W, also received minor damage.
One man was transported from the Quik Trip to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth with minor injuries at 4:30 p.m., MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said.
Zavadsky said that was the only transport they made because of the weather event.
Workers covered gas pumps, picked up damaged signs and umbrellas and told people to leave because they had to close the store.
The entryway on the east side of the building was pushed in by the storm, said an emergency response representative with Blackmon Mooring, a cleaning and restoration company.
An area supervisor for the gas chain said she thought that side of the building was hit by a tornado. She declined to give her name or answer further questions.
About the same time, a food truck parked at Adams Mini Mart on the corner of Deen Road and Northeast 28th lost its metal window cover, which blew across four lanes of traffic and landed in the Quik Trip parking lot, Luis Murillo, owner of Taqueria Eva, said.
“Someone ran across the street and brought it back,” he said with a grin.
At King Wireless in the strip next to the food truck and across from the Quik Trip, the store’s sign with its logo slammed down onto the ground, manager Ruben Anaya said.
“I saw all the signs in the front of the store start flying and I wanted to go outside and see what was happening, but then less than 10 seconds later I hear a loud air noise and a slam,” the manager said.
Signs pointing to I-35W were down in the 2000 block of Deen Road.
City workers tied ropes around a stop light that had been blown back, and a city truck drove slowly into the intersection as crews tried to get the street light back in its spot.
The National Weather Service issued the afternoon’s first tornado warning at 4:17 p.m.
“We issued a tornado warning right when we started receiving reports of it,” said Lamont Bain, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth. “It was nearly simultaneous.”
The tornado warning ended at 4:35 p.m. A second tornado warning was issued until 5 p.m., for Wise County, where golf-ball-sized hail was reported.
WFAA meteorologist Colleen Coyle said while there were only a handful of lightning strikes in Tarrant County, a separate weather event in Wise County produced 600 to 700 strikes. The system later moved into Denton County where there were 300 strikes.
“If those were confirmed tornadoes [in Fort Worth], that storm did not look very impressive on radar,” Coyle said. “But then it still ended up producing some extremely high winds, if not an EF-0 tornado.”
WFAA reported that three of the four light poles at the Ponder High School football stadium in Denton County buckled during the storms. Baseball-sized hail was spotted north and west of Denton, WFAA reported.
Before Thursday there had been three confirmed November tornadoes in Tarrant County. The most recent November tornado was in southwest Fort Worth on Nov. 20, 1994.
Robison and several other people who work in the Compass Bank building in Fort Worth said they did not hear tornado sirens before the wind hit. Some motorists reported on social media that they heard sirens north of Loop 820, a few miles away, but not in the vicinity of the damaged bank building.
Ortiz said sirens were activated for the northeast quadrant of the city and would have been activated for Robison’s area, but there was no warning.
“The storm developed right on top of the area so by the time we got word it had already touched down and passed,” Ortiz said.
He stressed that the city sent out messages via its emergency notification system, Nixle.
Not unheard of in November
While weather service meteorologists won’t be able to confirm whether a tornado hit until Friday, tornadoes aren’t that unusual in November.
“These events can happen any time of the year,” Huckaby said. “We have a secondary weather season that occurs primarily in October. This is part of that season. We’re just getting it a little later this year.”
In North Texas, the most recent report of a tornado was in Limestone County on Nov. 21, 2013, but that was never confirmed. The most recent November tornado within the National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office area of responsibility occurred in Bell County on Nov. 23, 2004.
Before Thursday, there had been three confirmed November tornadoes in Tarrant County. The most recent November tornado was in southwest Fort Worth on Nov. 20, 1994.
The yearly national average is 58 — including nine in Texas — for November. Last year there were 23 confirmed tornadoes in November in the U.S.
The worst outbreak came Nov. 21-23, 1992, when 105 tornadoes were reported in 13 states from Texas to the Carolinas. The storm system started in Houston on Nov. 21, where an F4 tornado destroyed more than 200 homes on the city’s east side, according to weatherunderground.com.
105 tornadoes hit the U.S. on Nov. 21-23, 1992, the worst outbreak ever in November.
Another F4 hit Mississippi late Nov. 21 and early Nov. 22, which killed 12 people and destroyed more than 700 homes.
The storm ended in North Carolina when two F3s hit, killing two and injuring 59.
With storms moving through the region all day, hundreds of flights were delayed at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration said that flights were delayed at gates and taxiways for over an hour at DFW.
According to FlightStats.com, as of 5:30 p.m. there were 254 arrivals and 273 departures delayed at DFW, with only a handful of flights canceled.
Dallas Love Field had 51 arrivals and 60 departures delayed because of the weather. Some passengers were having to sleep in the terminal.
Flash flood watch
A flash flood watch for the area was in effect until midnight. The biggest problems were expected to be in low-lying areas or construction zones.
Unlike previous rounds of storms, the rain shouldn’t be a multiday event, with most areas expected to pick up 1 to 2 inches of rain.
Heavier amounts of rainfall, up to 3 to 4 inches, are expected southeast of Dallas.
That could pose a problem in Corsicana, which has had 25.5 inches of rainfall since Oct. 23. That’s more than the city of San Angelo, with 23.13 inches, has had for the entire year.
It’s unlikely that it will rain Friday morning, Bain said, with the caveat that you “can never rule out a shower or two.”
Staff writer Mitch Mitchell contributed to this report.