A year’s worth of tornados hit USA’s 10th largest city
The DFW Metroplex is not unaccustomed to tornados but 3rd of April 2012 was downright extraordinary – not just for the number of tornados and the damage but because no-one was killed!
- Tornado season – when Nature becomes bipolar
- A day to remember… and caught on camera
- A second wave
- A day of humanity at its best
Tornado season – when Nature becomes bipolar
Tuesday 3rd April 2012, another day of unseasonably warmth with moist air streaming in on the prevailing southwesterly winds and temperatures scraping 90°F (32°C), even in the warm deep South more like May than March, a day when the inhabitants of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, USA’s 10th largest conurbation, would have much preferred a day of leisure in the garden or on the lakes to the tiresome hot commute into the city.
Fortunately, they overcame their reluctance and went into work because by the end of the day many workers would have no homes to return to. At lunchtime, Nature put away her summer clothes and trained her big guns on Dallas, launching a blitzkrieg from which Dallas is still, literally, picking up the pieces. Between the hours of 1 PM and 7PM Dallas suffered an “outbreak” of around a dozen tornados ranging up to EF3.
A day to remember… and caught on camera
The sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex occupies an area the size of Greater London or Tokyo and yet, despite lying firmly ‘Tornado Alley’, historically, it has not been greatly affected by tornados. Fort Worth, on the western side of the Metroplex closer to the normal dry line, has seen two tornados downtown in the past decade but Dallas and its adjacent cities have not seen any major activity in over half a century. On Tuesday, that all changed when Nature launched its own ‘Shock and Awe” assault - two waves of strikes against the eastern half of the Metroplex.
Three hundred homes were damaged in Lancaster, on the southern outskirts of Dallas, before the twisters tracked north through Arlington and beyond. At the Flying J, a service area on the southern ring road, trucks and trailers were tossed around like matchsticks, demolishing houses in the neighbourhood. Here, as can be seen from the video
, the tornado was rain-wrapped and almost impossible to see from nearby. A quick-thinking Police Officer rapidly shepherded staff and customers into the meat lockers at the back for safety as cars were seen to be sucked off the ground.
Arlington itself, lying check by jowl with downtown Dallas and home to the Dallas Cowboys’ colossal new stadium and the Rangers’ baseball stadium, was hit by two tornados, demolishing 150 homes and a complete wing of a nursing home. The video
was taken by a son whose father resided in the nursing home, in the wing that bore the brunt of the damage (wait until the Doppler radar clears). Amazingly, given the amount of destruction, only one person in the nursing home was mildly injured out of over 100 residents and staff. The Rangers’ stadium was airbrushed by two tornados in two separate waves, but nevertheless the Rangers could play the exhibition match scheduled for that evening.
The skyline of downtown Dallas with its glass and steel monoliths narrowly escaped damage as a tornado deflected to the east crossing White Rock Lake and Garland.
A second wave
The second wave of tornado storm troopers dropped mid-afternoon, at a time when many local schoolchildren would be leaving school, and again targeted Arlington. One touched down right next to the famous Mesquite Rodeo stadium, subsequently barrelling along through Garland and up highway 78. It was the last tornado of the outbreak, which perhaps provided the most drama. Because it was the last, there were fewer distractions, it was also the largest, but it was its seemingly unstoppable progress across open country towards concentrated population centres to the East of Dallas that created drama worthy of a disaster movie.
Touching down in Forney on the south-eastern outskirts of the Metroplex, it took a large bite out of some new high-end housing before setting its sights on the nearby county seat of Greenville, TX. En route, the tornado munched on several houses in the small township of McLelland-Chisolm and leveled a group of houses in Union Valley. With appetite still unslaked, it ploughed on towards Royse City and the northern part of Greenville and its outlying townships … and in between, on a direct line through our own small homestead!
Fortunately, be it the quirky mechanics of the weather or the hand of fate, the cold front finally managed to push through the squall line that had been stalled all afternoon, pushing the tornado away to the east, tracking it south of Royse City and subsequently south of Greenville, where it subsequently overtook it and safely obliterated it in the open country between Greenville and Commerce.
Being stormchasers, my wife and I would have loved to be able to show you a home video of this particular beast but with our daughter initially under the gun in Dallas and then close friends in Royse City and subsequently ourselves, we were unfortunately other wise occupied. For those who would like to experience a tornado up close and personal from the safety of their computer monitors, a homeowner near Royse City filmed this
, almost leaving it too late to start to seek shelter!
A day of humanity at its best
It was a day of impossible-to-cover action and drama, a day when a squadron of tornados destroyed an estimated 700 properties and left a trail of power outages and broken power lines in their wake; a day fraught with potential disaster and yet in which, miraculously, not one person lost their life, thanks in no small part to unstinting action by the local Police and Fire departments, in harm’s way at every moment, to close roads about to be impacted by crossing tornados and to warn shoppers, residents and, in particular schools, lying in their path.
An alerted headmaster quickly pulled all his pupils back from their school buses to assemble back in the school’s strongest structure until the tornado danger was past.
At the Green Oaks nursing home in Arlington (the subject of the video above), staff patiently gathered their elderly residents in the sturdy central meeting area: the home lost a complete wing but only one resident required a hospital visit, for minor injuries.
There were some other miraculous escapes by people rescued from demolished houses or homes picked up and flung around the neighbourhood but fortunately most people were at work or about their afternoon business.
Most of all, it was a day, when communities came together and opened their hearts, their purses, their closets and their homes to provide friends, neighbours and strangers who had lost everything with support, necessities and even accommodation. Yet it was also a day when exhausted Police officers still had to seal off devastated areas with dangerously unstable structures to prevent looting.
All in all, a day showing the very best but still the worst of humanity!