3 tornadoes confirmed west of Fort Worth; storms to return Wednesday

As a line of dangerous thunderstorms raced across Hood County on Tuesday morning, Jimmy Hill was dropping off his neighbor, Johnny Walker, at his mobile home near the front of Jack’s Trailer Park.

Fifteen minutes later, Walker’s mobile home was gone.

There was no sign of Johnny or his wife, Glenda, in the pile of debris across the street from where their home once stood.

“Get them out alive,” Hill said. “That’s all I could think about.”

He and the trailer park’s owner, Jack Fisk, dug through the debris and eventually found the Walkers.

“One of them was right over here by a blue fan under two little walls and the other one was right up in the front of the trailer under a bunch of walls,” Hill said.

Wind, hail and torrential rains pounded North Texas on Tuesday morning, injuring at least four people in Hood County, including the Walkers, Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said. Three were taken to a local hospital.

The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday night that an EF-1 tornado touched down in Tolar, the last of three in a 24-hour-period.

Tarrant County had torrential rain and 70 mph wind gusts. Denton County reported flooding, and power went out across the region.

The rain moved out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the afternoon, but more storms are expected through Friday.

The rainfall total for the day was 0.97 inch at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the official reporting station.

The first tornado touched down at 6:08 p.m. Monday in Cool, in western Parker County, where it produced a damage path of nearly two miles, according to the weather service. Seven homes were damaged along and north of U.S. 180. A few vehicles were damaged and a horse had to be put down after its leg was broken, Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said.

The estimated peak wind speeds were 95-105 mph during the four-minute event, according to the weather service.

The next tornado hit at 6:55 a.m. Tuesday in Stephenville near U.S. 377, moving north-northeast and damaging several businesses and an apartment complex south of Washington Street, according to the weather service.

The tornado lasted two minutes, with estimated peak wind speeds of 90-100 mph.

Other areas of Stephenville were damaged by 80-90 mph straight-line winds, the weather service reported. One injury was reported.

Peak wind speeds of the Tolar tornado, which touched down at 7:21 a.m. Tuesday, were 85-95 mph. The event lasted 2 minutes.

Johnny Walker of Tolar has a punctured lung and Glenda Walker sustained multiple injuries, said Glenda’s brother, Henry Guinn. Both are expected to recover.

Of the 22 mobile homes in the small trailer park, six were destroyed and six were heavily damaged, Sheriff Deeds said.

More storms ahead

Tuesday’s rain brought the total rainfall for the year to 4.25 inches, leaving the area 1.45 inches below normal to date, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jesse Moore.

But the deficit is likely to disappear. There was an 80 percent chance of rain overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning, and a 70 percent chance Wednesday for all of North Texas, Moore said.

The rain chances decrease by Wednesday night, but another round of showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast all day Thursday and Friday, bringing an additional 2 to 4 inches of rain, Moore said.

“The forecast is going to change several times,” Moore cautioned. “This pattern is hard to predict.”

The biggest threats will be heavy rain and lightning.

Lakes and rivers

The rainfall is beginning to affect area reservoirs and rivers.

Lake Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain Lake were closed because of high water and water was being released downstream.

“So far the levels and releases are not affecting anyone,” David Marshall, director of engineering and operations support with the Tarrant Regional Water District, said Tuesday morning. “With the forecast of three more inches, the flood levels in the river between Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain may be a concern, and levels at Eagle Mountain may be on the verge of getting into the first homes. But this all depends upon the intensity and timing of the rain.”

By nightfall, water district spokesman Chad Lorance said he didn’t think that would happen.

“We don’t anticipate [water reaching] any homes at this point,” Lorance said.

The city of Fort Worth closed boat ramps at Lake Worth at 5 p.m. Tuesday as more water poured into the lake upstream from Eagle Mountain.

Lake Grapevine, still holding floodwaters from fall rain, rose nearly a foot overnight.

West of Fort Worth, the Brazos River had minor flooding near the low-lying Horseshoe Bend area south of Weatherford.

“It came up overnight and is still on the rise,” said Horseshoe Bend resident Bart Salter, who owns 13 rental houses. “Right now, it’s actually coming up behind my house. Water is also trickling through the drainage pipes.”

The flooding was expected to crest at 21.9 feet, but ended up cresting at 22.6 feet as of 6 p.m. and should continue to go down and be out of a “minor flooding” status Wednesday morning, Brazos River Authority spokeswoman Judi Pierce said.

Other damage reports

▪  The Tarrant County College Northwest campus closed Tuesday morning after losing power during the storms but was to reopen for evening classes at 5 p.m. The student union had bricks knocked off one side of the building during the storm but could still be used, said Nina Petty, TCC’s vice chancellor for real estate and facilities.

▪  Stephenville police tweeted that power lines were down all over town Tuesday morning and that temporary shelters had been set up at the recreation hall and senior center. Tarleton State University, where half the main campus was operating on generator power at mid-morning, closed for the day to assess damage.

Powerful winds ripped down one side of the football stadium press box and damaged several buildings under construction, said university President Dominic Dottavio.

“It sure looks like tornado damage,” Dottavio said after making a brief appearance at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where he spoke about the university’s plans to build a new campus in southwest Fort Worth. “We’re still doing an assessment of the damage.”

No injuries were reported on campus, he said.

“Luckily, the students were on spring break,” Dottavio said.

▪  Oncor reported 800 outages in the Dallas-Fort Worth area at 8 p.m., which was down from 30,000 at 10 a.m.

▪  In Parker County, a house in the 200 block of Saddle Club Road was destroyed by a fire that started when lightning struck the roof, said Kurt Harris, the Parker County fire marshal. The house, with an estimated value of about $300,000, also contained a business, including a dental lab upstairs. No injuries were reported.

▪  In Aubrey, six students ages 6 or 7 were pulled from a school bus that stalled in water at West Sherman Drive and Elm Bottom Circle. A truck towing a rescue boat tried to back up to the bus, but the water too shallow in some areas, said Assistant Fire Chief Kenneth Hedges of the Denton Fire Department.

Rescuers carried the students from the bus to the boat and then the truck pulled the boat onto dry land. Hedges said the students were all off the bus by 7:43 a.m. and got on another bus to school. The driver was able to restart the bus and drive it out of the water.

▪  In Blue Mound, several people at Harold’s Foods took shelter in a cooler during the storm, which caused minor wind damage at the business.

“The roof was shaking and we were freaking out,” said owner Mike Ali.

The convenience store and lunch market sustained serious damage to its exterior wall.

Not far away, a giant tree fell onto Michelle Rios’ 2014 Toyota Tundra pickup, which was parked outside her Fort Worth home near Western Center Boulevard.

“My neighbor’s canopy is still in my yard,” she said.

Staff writers Monica S. Nagy, Gordon Dickson, Dylan Bradley, Azia Branson and Christian Boschult contributed to this report.

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