The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Dallas on Sunday night, causing structural damage and knocking out electricity to thousands.
Meteorologist Jason Godwin said radar confirmed the twister hit the ground near Love Field Airport and moved northeast through the city, at around 9 p.m. There were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries as of 12:20 a.m. Monday, according to a release from the city of Dallas, but Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans says three people were hospitalized for evaluation of non-life-threatening injuries.
Local media outlets reported several homes and businesses were damaged, power lines downed and tree limbs were scattered across roadways. The city said there were reports of gas leaks north of Walnut Hill. Most of the damage within Dallas was limited to the northwest, with Evans defining the area as bordered by Royal Lane to the north and Northwest Highway to the south, as well as Harry Hines Boulevard to the west and Interstate 75 to the east.
Nearly 140,000 electric customers were without power as of 4 a.m., according to Oncor’s online outage map. The electric utility said storms across East Texas had caused significant damage to power lines.
“Currently there is not an estimated time of restoration, however we are working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible,” Oncor said in a statement on its website.
Around 65,000 of the affected electric customers were within Dallas, according to the city, which said it would open a shelter by 2 a.m.
Search teams conducted primary assessments on accessible structures for six hours overnight, but were hampered by “limited access and lack of proper lighting,” Evans said. A second set of teams were to resume search efforts in daylight.
Seven people escaped a structure that collapsed in northwest Dallas, but Dallas Fire-Rescue were searching to see if anyone was left inside, Evans said. WFAA-TV reported that a convenience store collapsed in the storm, but the clerk told the station that everyone who was inside made it out safely.
Evans said the department had also received multiple calls from people injured in their homes by broken glass.
On Twitter, Dallas Fire-Rescue said one of its own stations sustained significant damage during the storms overnight, and included photos that appeared to show a collapsed roof and debris. Evans said in another release that none of the firefighters at Station 41 were hurt, but the station was left “uninhabitable after the roof, and other parts of the structure, was mostly removed by the high winds.”
A radio station, KNON-FM, went off the air as the studio suffered major damage from the tornado. Lew Morris, one of the hosts of “Reckless Rock Radio” was preparing for the show at the station while another show was broadcasting. He told The Associated Press in a Facebook message that the power at the station went out first, followed by the “distinctive whistle” of a tornado within three minutes.
He said there were three staffers in the building, which he described as having a lot of large glass windows. He told the host of the show that had been broadcasting to follow him to the bathroom, to get away from all the glass.
“We then heard the building shaking and could hear the glass windows shattering everywhere along with debris banging around. We waited until all the noise died down,” Morris told the AP. “We walked out to see the studio he was just broadcasting from destroyed.”
Morris — whose own car was covered by a tree — said the third staff member took shelter in a stairwell. It’s unclear when the station will begin broadcasting again, but Morris says he’s heard there might be a temporary set-up from which they can broadcast.
Godwin, the meteorologist, said the size and severity of the tornado won’t be known until crews arrive to survey the damage. NWS warning coordination meteorologist Jennifer Dunn told the AP there may have been two or more tornadoes in north Texas, but reiterated that the extent wouldn’t be known until later Monday afternoon, after survey teams assess the damage.
The storm happened as multiple severe thunderstorm watches and warnings covered portions of four counties, including Dallas County, and more stormy weather was expected in the area during the overnight hours.
North of Dallas, the city of Richardson said in a release that thoroughfares “used by thousands of morning commuters” will be closed while workers clear debris and repair downed traffic lights. No injuries in the affluent suburb were reported, but more than 7,000 Oncor customers within Richardson lost power, including some school campuses. Richardson is home to the University of Texas at Dallas and bills itself as “the second largest employment center in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area.”
The city of Sachse, a northeast suburb of Dallas, said in a release that six houses “sustained significant high-wind damage after severe weather moved through the area Sunday night.” Four homes were left uninhabitable, but no injuries had been reported.
Citing extensive damage to campuses, the Dallas Independent School District canceled Monday classes at six schools: David G. Burnet Elementary School, Leonides Gonzalez Cigarroa Elementary School, John J. Pershing Elementary School, Walnut Hill Elementary School, Edward H. Cary Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School. The district also advised students that bus routes from those campuses to magnet and choice schools would not run Monday. The Episcopal School of Dallas also canceled classes and asked people to avoid campus “until further notice while damage is assessed and crews work to clean up.” The schools are all in northwest Dallas.
Dallas police said officers in one part of the city were going door-to-door to check on residents.
Associated Press reporter Mallika Sen contributed from New York.