DALLAS: Crews searched on Monday through the rubble of buildings torn apart by a tornado that ripped through the Dallas area the night before, causing damage to homes and businesses and knocking out electricity to tens of thousands of people.
Radar confirmed the tornado hit the ground near Love Field Airport and moved northeast through the city around 9pm on Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Godwin. There were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries early on Monday, according to a release from the city of Dallas, but Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans says three people were hospitalised for evaluation of non-life-threatening injuries.
The storms also caused damage in Arkansas and Oklahoma as the system moved to the northeast early on Monday. Power was out at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill, about 250 kilometres northwest of Little Rock. The airport says flights were still departing, though security screenings were being done manually.
Tornado warnings were in effect on 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 on Monday.
In Texas, heavy damage was reported in northwest Dallas and Richardson. Nearly 140,000 electric customers were without power as of 4am on Monday, according to Oncor’s online outage map. The electric utility said storms across East Texas had caused significant damage to power lines.
Around 65,000 of the affected electric customers were within Dallas, according to the city, which said it would open a shelter.
Crews searched through homes and businesses that were accessible for about 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 none of the firefighters at Station 41 were hurt, but said the roof was torn off 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” 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.
“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.”
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.
North of Dallas, the city of Richardson said in a release that many roads “used by thousands of morning commuters” will be closed while workers clear debris and repair downed traffic lights.
The city of Sachse, a northeast suburb of Dallas, said in a release that six houses were damaged from the storms, but no injuries were reported.
Citing extensive damage to campuses, the Dallas Independent School District cancelled Monday classes at six schools.