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Storms rip Dallas area; 1 killed by falling tree in Arkansas

Updated October 21, 2019 - 11:59 am

DALLAS — A tornado tore homes and businesses apart in a densely populated area of Dallas, where only minor injuries were reported, but a person was killed by a falling tree in northwest Arkansas as a late-night series of storms caused chaos in several states.

Radar confirmed the tornado struck near Dallas Love Field Airport around 9 p.m. CDT Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Godwin. There were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries in Texas on Monday, but Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans says three people were hospitalized for evaluation of injuries that were not life-threatening. Tens of thousands of people were without electricity. Dallas Love Field spokesman Chris Perry said the airport was not damaged in the storm.

Tornado warnings were in effect Monday morning in far eastern Arkansas near the Mississippi River as the storm system moved to the east. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says areas of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee could see severe thunderstorms later Monday.

Dallas-based radio station KNON-FM went off the air when the studio suffered major damage from the tornado. Lew Morris, one of the hosts of “Reckless Rock Radio,” told The Associated Press that the power went out first, followed by the “distinctive whistle” of a tornado within three minutes.

He and another radio show host sheltered in the bathroom.

“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 said. “We walked out to see the studio he was just broadcasting from destroyed.”

Mayor says Dallas lucky this time

Addressing a news conference Monday morning, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the city was lucky this time.

“I think we should consider ourselves very fortunate that we did not lose any lives — no fatalities and no serious injuries — in last night’s storms. I think we should all be very grateful for that,” Johnson said.

October tornadoes are not common, and cities are rarely hit, according to tornado scientist Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.

A study by Brooks last year found that only one-third of the most violent tornadoes hit communities of more than 5,000 people. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has been hit at least three times in the last 25 years, he said.

Godwin said the size and severity of this tornado won’t be known until crews survey the damage. NWS warning coordination meteorologist Jennifer Dunn said there may have been two or more tornadoes in north Texas but said the extent wouldn’t be known until Monday afternoon.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said one of its stations sustained significant damage during the storms overnight, posting photos on Twitter that show a collapsed roof and debris. Evans said no firefighters at Station 41 were hurt, but that high winds tore the roof off.

7 escape structure

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 received multiple calls from people injured in their homes by broken glass. Searches of damaged buildings resumed Monday morning after limited access and poor light stalled rescue operations overnight, he said.

The storm disrupted flights in North Texas and northwest Arkansas. According to Flightaware.com, 63 flights were delayed and 18 canceled at Dallas Love Field on Monday, while 78 flights were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and more than 200 were delayed.

In northwest Arkansas, one person died when a tree fell on a home in Rogers, about 150 miles northwest of Little Rock, according to the Benton County Department of Public Safety. Power was out at the nearby Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill. The airport said it canceled 17 flights Monday and about a dozen flight were delayed.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said “significant storm damage” occurred in that part of the state.

Damage was also reported in the northeast corner of Arkansas in the town of Tyronza, where five people were reported injured, Jonesboro TV station KAIT reported.

The weather system also knocked down trees and power lines and broke windows and caused other minor damage at Memphis International Airport in Tennessee. No injuries were reported but some flights have been delayed. A few businesses in east Memphis suffered minor damage.

Large power outages

About 55,000 electric customers are without power in Dallas and another 40,000 in the surrounding area, according to Connie Piloto, a spokeswoman for utility Oncor.

Equipment including utility poles, transformers and powerlines need to be restored and reconstruction could take days, Piloto said.

The city opened a shelter late Sunday and about two dozen people stayed overnight, emergency management director Rocky Vaz said.

North of Dallas, the city of Richardson said that many roads “used by thousands of morning commuters” would be closed while workers clear debris and repair downed traffic lights.

The city of Sachse, a northeast suburb of Dallas, said six houses were damaged from the storms, but no injuries were reported.

Citing extensive damage to campuses, the Dallas Independent School District canceled Monday classes at several schools.

In parts of southern Missouri, the severe weather toppled trees and power lines, damaging some homes and outbuildings. The weather service said crews were headed out Monday morning to determine whether straight line winds or small tornadoes caused the damage.

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