Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Tornado Chronicles: Dallas / Ft. Worth Metroplex, Arlington, Lancaster, Kennedale, Forney TX Tornadoes of 4-3-12...

Numerous tornadoes struck the Dallas / Ft. Worth Metroplex during the afternoon of Tuesday, April 3, 2012. This is the first major tornado event in the Metroplex region in some time - probably since the Ft. Worth, Arlington and Grand Prairie tornado events of March 28, 2000.

(This note added at 12 Noon on 4/5/12):  I am working on an interactive Google Map projection of the tornado tracks as survey data is received and analyzed over the coming few days.  The initial map is below (click on the map to move around, zoom-in, etc).

Please keep in mind this map is preliminary and will be updated, corrected, etc., as additional information is received over the coming days. I am also going to attempt to match damage photos with specific points along the tracks, so be sure to refresh the map for updates...

Update 12:45pm 4/5/12 - Irving Tornado:

At least a brief tornado touchdown has been documented in Irving at North Belt Line Road and Rochelle Road.  Part of the roof of a commercial building was damaged and/or blown away by the tornado, generating EF-0 damage.  As you can see by the photo below, the damage extended down into the ceiling of the business:

via NWS Survey

The survey of this area is continuing and additional touchdowns and/or extensions of this touchdown may be realized later today...

Update 11:35am 4/5/12 - Joshua and Grand Prairie (NW) Area tornadoes:

The first tornado of the day on April 3rd appears to have been the one that touched down approximately 3 miles South/Southeast of Joshua:

It was only on the ground for 1.1 miles, but that was enough to cause EF-0 to EF-1 damage to a few homes, as seen in this photo of roof damage to a home below (3 miles South/Southeast of town along FM-3048):

via NWS Survey

Another brief touchdown took place on the northwest side of Grand Prairie, near the intersection of Highway 360 and Avenue K:

It caused EF-0 damage to the roof of a commercial building near that location:

via NWS Survey

I'll have more specific information on the other individual tornadoes, their tracks, etc. throughout the day today. 

Update 11am 4/5/12 - Royse City (South) Tornado Track:

A short track but strong tornado took place to the South of Royse City on Tuesday afternoon, April 3rd.  This tornado touched down about 7 miles south of Royse City, and tracked toward the Northeast for approximately 3.1 miles before lifting just across the Hunt County line.  The NWS survey estimates, based on damage, that the tornado contained maximum winds of 130-135 mph, which makes it a high-end EF-2 tornado.  It was 400 yards wide at the widest point of damage.

This tornado caused quite a bit of damage to a subdivision near FM-548 and Bent Tree Ln:

via NWS Survey

The map below is an approximation as to the tornado's path, based on preliminary survey data (latitude/longitude information has not yet been provided):

Update 10:15am 4/5/12 - Lancaster/Dallas Tornado Track:

The preliminary National Weather Service (NWS) survey of the Lancaster / Dallas tornado is complete.  Maximum winds from this tornado (at least as represented by the damage) were 130 mph, which makes it a high end EF-2 tornado.  The maximum width along the damage path was 200 yards, and the path length was 7.1 miles.

One of the more memorable points of impact along the Lancaster/Dallas tornado track was the Schneider National Trucking Yard at Bonnie View Rd. and I-20 in Dallas.  This is where the tractor trailers were lofted 50-120 feet (or more) into the air:

There are 3 separate videos in this post that show the trailers being lifted up into the air by the tornado.  Please scroll further down in the post to the updates from yesterday and Tuesday to view those videos.

An approximation as to the tornado track is shown on the image below, based on the ground damage reports (exact latitude/longitude data from the survey have not yet been provided):

For additional damage and tornado photos and videos of the Lancaster / Dallas tornado, please scroll down through earlier updates in this post.  

I'll have more specific information on the other individual tornadoes, their tracks, etc. throughout the day today. 

Update 9:30am 4/5/12 - Kennedale/Arlington Tornado Track:

The preliminary National Weather Service (NWS) survey of the Kennedale / Arlington tornado is complete.  As noted in an update from yesterday (further below in the post), the maximum winds from this tornado (at least as represented by the damage) were 135 mph, which makes it a very high end EF-2 tornado.  The maximum width along the damage path was 150 yards, and the path length was 4.6 miles.

One of the points impacted along the path was the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, on Chaperito Trail in Arlington, where extensive damage was done to the West wing of the structure.  Amazingly, there were no serious injuries or deaths at the home:

An approximation as to the track is shown on the image below.  I point out that this is only an approximation because the latitude/longitude data points have not yet been provided.  The track below is based on damage reports along the survey path:

It is noteworthy that the tornado curved to the left of the radar indicated circulation track toward the end of its life cycle.  This same phenomenon took place during the recent southwest San Antonio tornadoes in March.  The image below shows the approximate paths of the radar-based circulations from the DFW area events of Tuesday:

Update at 5:39pm 4/4/12:

Kennedale Area Damage Photos (via Dallas Morning News)...

Lancaster Area Damage Photos (via Dallas Morning News)...

Forney Area Damage Photos (via Dallas Morning News)...

Update at 3:30pm 4/4/12:
Below are additional damage photos and videos that have become available today:

The above photo was taken at Telephone Road and North Dallas Ave. in Lancaster.  Note the wood plank that was driven into the roof of the home, as well as the wood planks that are dug into the ground in the yard.

The damage to the home itself was EF-0, but it took a tornado of considerable strength (EF-2 or higher intensity) to generate those missiles.  This is where the current tornado rating system (which is based on damage only) can be misleading.  If an EF-3 or EF-4 tornado cruises along and doesn't hit anything, but throws a missile into a neighboring house's roof, it's rated EF-0.

The above is a good example of my point regarding the fact that there is really no such thing as a "weak" tornado.  I think there are many more strong tornadoes that just happen not to hit anything, and are therefore never even counted.  We are starting to get further proof of this as tornadoes have tracked into more populated areas during the last year.

The photo below was taken very near the one above, at Telephone Rd. and North Dallas Avenue in Lancaster.  Note large sections of the roof were removed from this home, and others near it.  This would typically indicate EF-2 level damage with 125-135 mph winds:

The photos below show additional damage in Lancaster, near Pleasant Run Rd. and Rogers Avenue:

The above Lancaster damage photos were taken by the National Weather Service (NWS) survey team.  So far they are reporting 300 homes with damage in Lancaster, most being single story, 1-2 family residences.  They have preliminarily rated the damage in this area as "high end" EF-2, with estimated winds of 125-130 mph.

In the Arlington area, EF-2 damage has been found in the area between I-20 and Pleasant Ridge Road, about 1/2 mile East of Green Oaks Blvd:

The preliminary survey information indicates that the Kennedale/Arlington tornado had a path length of 4.6 miles and a maximum damage path width of 400 yards (1/4 mile).

In the Forney area, extensive damage was done in the Diamond Creek subdivision (near Ridgecrest Rd. and FM-548): 

Preliminary results of the NWS survey in Forney indicate EF-3 damage in the Diamond Creek Subdivision, with maximum winds estimated at 150 mph.  Several homes in the subdivision were destroyed, with even more heavily damaged.

Please check back to the post frequently over the next few days.  Additional photos, videos and track/intensity updates will be posted as information becomes available...

Update at 1:30pm 4/4/12:
Below are additional photos and videos that have come forward since my last update. I am attempting to arrange them by area where possible (and where indicated on the source material).

Arlington Area:

In this first video, note the tornado contains multiple vorticies, meaning there are several tornado vorticies spinning around the parent circulation.  This was shot along Highway 287 South and Highway 820 in Arlington (videographer not identified):

The video below shows the same tornado, shot out of the front window of a vehicle traveling down Highway 287 (WARNING: foul language right off the top of the video):

At approximately 1:58 into the video (above) you hear the videographer (who was not identified) say "it doesn't look like much, but there's debris all in the sky...).  This goes back to what we always say in that you don't have to see the tornado (funnel) extend all the way to the ground in order for it to be on the ground and causing damage.  Note the debris swirling around in the air even when there is no visible condensation funnel associated with the tornado.

The individual in this next video from near Arlington (videographer not identified) was way too close to both the tornado and the lightning strikes taking place all around.  Note the powerline flash about 28 seconds in:

Lancaster Area:

Warning, foul language (once, near beginning) in this video:

The gentleman who shot the following video was too close at times, but it does give an impressive account as to the debris action associated with a large tornado.  You can also see a multi-vortex structure at times as well:

By now you've probably seen the helicopter video in which you can see the tractor trailers being lifted up and dropped by the tornado (if not, scroll further down in this post and you'll find it from yesterday's updates).  This next video shows the same tornado and the same trailers being lofted, but from a completely different angle, starting about 38 second into the video:

Here is another video of the Lancaster tornado that shows the trailers being lofted from yet another angle, this one heading North on Highway 20.  WARNING:  very bad language about 1:35 in and after.  You can see the trailers being lofted about 1:50 into the video.  Toward the end, you can see the multiple-vortex nature of the tornado once again:

I absolutely, positively do not condone the actions the folks took in this next video.  They should have been in a shelter.  The video appears to have been shot in a junk yard, and they eventually took "shelter" in the car crusher as the tornado passed extremely close (about 1:15 into the video).  Debris was flying all around and they could have been struck at any time.  WARNING:  language alert throughout:

Forney Area:

I'll be posting some additional tornado video later this afternoon, as well as multiple damage photos and be sure to check back later today...

Previous updates from the day of the event are shown below:

Update 8pm CDT 4/3/12:

Tornado Near Forney (East Dallas) - via Willard Heating and Air

Another Video near Forney (via "case8099") - Bad Language Alert

Near Lancaster (South of Dallas) - Parrish Velasco

Near Lancaster (South of Dallas) - Parrish Velasco

Damage to Portofino Apartments in Lancaster
(Dallas Morning News - Steve Pfost)

Over 100 aircraft were reportedly damaged by hail at the DFW International Airport, which was closed for several hours.  All aircraft will of course be thoroughly inspected prior to being allowed back in the air.  As of 8pm CDT, I'm told that the airport has resumed normal operations, although it would be a good idea to check ahead of time to see if your flight is on time.

This is a fluid post and will be updated frequently over the next 24 hours.  Please check back soon for additional details as they come in...

Update 3pm: Below are some additional photos and videos that are coming forward (that have been verified thus far). Credit and location provided beneath the photo or video, where possible:

Near Spinks Airport (Ft. Worth)

Near Kennedale High School (SE Ft. Worth - Tarrant County)

Multiple-Vortex Tornado Near Arlington (Wes Stevens)

Update 2:10pm:  Below is a video of what we saw in the still shot at the last post, showing tractor trailers being lofted by the tornado.  You can also see numerous power flashes:

Note:  disregard the information (audio) in the video regarding where the storm is and where it's moving.  Keep in mind this was a recording - the storm has already passed North of the areas that are described as "in the path" in the video...

Here is another view of the same video, but the contrast appears to be better at times, making the tornado and debris easier to see at times:

Update 1:50pm: There have been several reports of tornadoes and damage since my last update, both in southern Ft. Worth and southern Dallas.  The screen shot below was shown on CNN and is reportedly a tractor trailer flying through the air as captured by an unknown mounted camera (possibly a security or tower camera of some sort):

The following video is from an unknown location, I believe I heard the town "Lancaster" (which is in southern Dallas) mentioned, but its hard to tell as the audio is not very loud:

The photo below appears to be the same tornado from a different vantage point, but again the location is not specified (via @angelaav):

This continues to be a very dangerous situation for the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  Numerous reports of damage are being received, and the parent thunderstorms continue to move slowly North/Northeast across eastern Ft. Worth and central and eastern Dallas at this time.

----------------------------------Prior update below:

Update 1pm:  According to the National Weather Service, "considerable damage" has been done in the Cleburne area due to a tornado.  That particular storm is now entering southern Ft. Worth.  

The storm to the East in southern Dallas and northern Ellis county is also strongly rotating on radar, and is moving toward southern Dallas.

Seek immediate shelter in these areas!

---------------------------------Original post below:

The above radar image was just taken from the site near Ft. Worth. Any of the storms immediately to the South and to the West of the Metroplex could produce severe weather, from large hail to tornadoes.  A funnel cloud was recently reported near Joshua, just to the South of Ft. Worth and Tarrant County.

Storms are moving toward the North/Northeast at 25 mph.

If you live across the Metroplex, heed the warning information this afternoon.  Plan a safe place to take shelter now, and be prepared to go there if threatening weather is observed or a warning is issued!

If you enjoy the blog, please click on the icons below to "Like" my facebook page and/or follow me on twitter. You'll find posts at these locations that aren't always on the blog, especially during rapidly changing weather situations...


Shamrock said...

Oh Rob.....Texas is for suredly in our thoughts and prayers. No injuries or deaths I hope....

Rob White said...


Thanks for your concern. Amazingly, thus far I have not seen any reports of deaths of serious injuries in the Dallas area. Really amazing considering what happened...

Shamrock said...

It is amazing. I was watching it unfold on The Weather Channel. Watching the 2 supercells in Texas. When I saw those 15,000lb trailers being flung around like ragdolls I was certain there'd be many injuries and some deaths. I am so happy I was wrong. I think people are paying attention to tornado warnings/watches this year. 2011 and 2012 so far have been super active. I am glad people are heeding the warnings!

Rob White said...


Yes, we are very fortunate in that the injuries were (mostly) minor and there were amazingly no deaths. Thank goodness for that.

I hope you are correct in that at least part of this has to do with people paying attention to warnings.

Also, if you look at the tracks of the tornadoes, the vast majority of the heaviest damage took place in mostly residential areas. Since the event took place in the middle of the day, most of these folks were at work or school, not at home. This fact probably contributed to the low casualty and zero death rate as well

If this had happened a few hours later (during rush hour) or 12 hours later (at night when most people were home sleeping), I'm afraid the results probably would have been much different.

It seems like events such as this one have a lot to do with 3 things:
(1). timing of the event, (2). awareness (listening for watches and warnings) and (3). taking action (sheltering).

Lets hope we can keep these 3 elements working together for the rest of the season!