Tornadoes tore through the Dallas area on Tuesday, tearing roofs off homes, tossing trucks into the air and leaving flattened tractor trailers strewn along highways and parking lots. The National Weather Service confirmed at least two separate "large and extremely dangerous" tornadoes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Several other developing twisters were reported as a band of violent storms moved north through the metropolitan area.
As a twister bore down on her neighborhood, Sherry Enochs grabbed the three young children in her home and hid in her bathtub. The winds swirled and snatched away two of the children. Her home collapsed around her.
Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt.
Enochs, 53, stood Wednesday amid the wreckage of what was once her home in the North Texas city of Forney, among the hardest hit by a series of tornadoes that barreled through one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas a day earlier. No one was reported dead, and of the more than 20 injured, only a handful were seriously hurt.
"If you really think about it, the fact that everybody who woke up in Forney yesterday is alive today in Forney, that's a real blessing," Mayor Darren Rozell said.
The National Weather Service is investigating the damage caused by the tornadoes, which appeared to flatten some homes and graze others next door. The twisters jumped from place to place, passing many heavily populated areas overhead and perhaps limiting what could have been a more damaging, deadly storm. Most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storms.
While tornadoes can strike major cities, having two major systems strike a single metropolitan area is highly unusual, meteorologist Jesse Moore said. The Texas twisters would have done more damage had they stayed on the ground for more of the storms' path. But weather experts and officials credited the quick response to tornado warnings for preventing deaths or more injuries.
In the Diamond Creek subdivision where Enochs' home was destroyed, residents put on work gloves Wednesday and began cleaning up. Many noticed things in their front yards that didn't belong to them.
Enochs doesn't have a clear memory of exactly how things happened Tuesday, but she was found holding her grandson in the bathtub, which had blown into the area where her garage once was. A 3-year-old she was watching was found wandering around the backyard. A neighbor pulled another child Enochs had been taking care of, 19-month-old Abigail Jones, from the rubble.
"I heard the rumbling from the tornado and I didn't even hear the house fall," Enochs said.
Abigail was taken to the hospital but released. The blonde, smiling child with bows in her hair was bruised on her cheek and forehead, but not seriously hurt. Her mother, Misty Jones, brought her back Wednesday to see what had happened.
Seven people were injured in Forney, none seriously. An additional 10 people were hurt in Lancaster, south of Dallas, and three people in Arlington, west of Dallas.
National Weather Service crews in Forney, east of Dallas, spotted storm damage that suggested the twister there was an EF3, with wind speeds as high as 165 mph. Other tornadoes in Arlington and Lancaster appear to have been EF2 tornadoes, with wind speeds up to 135 mph. Tornadoes can range from EF0, the weakest, to EF5, the strongest. An EF2 or higher is considered a significant tornado.
A twister can hit one spot and continue for miles before touching down again, Moore said. It's difficult to explain why a tornado touches down when it does.
"It can destroy one house and the one across the street is fine. It can go back up for a mile or two and drop back down," Moore said. "That's all the crazy things that can happen with tornadoes."
Randy McKeever and his wife and several of their friends sorted through what was left of their house Wednesday. Their roof was completely gone. The front yard was littered with shingles and pieces of wood. Inside was a jumble of belongings. McKeever, 47, wore work gloves as he tried to find anything that could be salvaged.
"There's a bunch of stuff in there that's not even ours," he said.
Stunning video from Dallas showed big-rig trailers tossed into the air and spiraling like footballs. An entire wing of an Arlington nursing home crumbled. In Lancaster, dozens of young children cowered in the safe room of a day care near a local church. The storm pulled one of the walls back "like you were peeling an orange," day care director Danita Harris said.
The students were moved further indoors and rode out the rest of the storm safely, she said.
"Not one Band-Aid had to be applied," Harris said.
Hundreds of flights into and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field were canceled or diverted elsewhere Tuesday. American Airlines, which operates most flights at the airport, said it canceled more than 400 flights Wednesday after stopping about 800 Tuesday. An airport spokesman said more than 110 planes were damaged by hail.
April is typically the worst month in a tornado season that stretches from March to June, but Tuesday's outburst suggests that "we're on pace to be above normal," said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop.
Gov. Rick Perry plans an aerial tour of the damage on Thursday.