North Texas Tornado Victims Start Removing Debris

When Sue Guthrie drove to her church for a women's group meeting, she hoped the tornado warnings she heard about were in another area. They weren't.

She found crumpled air conditioning units upside down on the lawn, jagged glass in windows and a gaping hole in the high, slanted roof of Handley United Methodist Church, where her husband has been pastor for nearly a year.

"When I saw it, I just cried," she said Tuesday night. "I've seen things like this on TV before, but it's never affected me personally or something I treasure."

The only people in the church when the storm hit, 10 children in day care and their teacher, were not injured.

As word spread of the church damage, about 50 members and neighbors gathered to nail plywood boards over broken windows and put plastic tarp over naked patches on the roof. They removed Bibles and song books from the sanctuary, where rain water puddled on the floor.

They worked into the early morning hours Wednesday, using flashlights and the illumination of street lamps.

Some were part of a United Methodist team that responds to disasters in the area, formed after Tarrant County twisters in March 2000 ravaged downtown Fort Worth and demolished an Arlington neighborhood.

"We'll work as long as needed to secure the building, so everything's covered if it storms again," said the Rev. Chuck Graff, team coordinator and senior pastor of Davis Memorial United Methodist Church in North Richland Hills.

Pat Svacina, spokesman for Fort Worth, said 18 to 20 mobile homes were damaged in south Fort Worth, and at least eight houses were destroyed and six more damaged in an eastern section of the city.

The storms began to develop late Tuesday afternoon south of Fort Worth and took aim on the metropolitan area during the rush hour. No major injuries were reported.

Gary Woodall, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said the agency will try Wednesday to determine the number of tornadoes and extent of damage.

There were several reports of twisters in Tarrant County from about 5:45 p.m. to about 6:10 p.m., Woodall said.

As another storm system hit Johnson and Ellis counties after 7 p.m., there were reports of a tornado north of Grandview; in Ellis, near Maypearl; and two south of Waxahachie, where some damage was reported.

As soon as 77-year-old Eliza Cook heard the storm pounding against her one-story brick house in east Fort Worth, she lay on the bed to pray.

"I know that's what saved me," she said. "I was asking him to take control, because at the rate it was going, it was out of my control."

When the windows shattered and glass sprayed into the room, Cook made her way to the bathroom across the hall, where she stayed until the tornado passed.

She lost part of her roof, her carport and a tree in her front yard. Glass cut into her house shoes but never scratched her skin, she said.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter in Fort Worth, and about a dozen people had arrived as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Workers were expecting some to spend the night.

"They're in remarkable spirits for what they've been through," spokeswoman Anita Foster said. "They're just grateful they survived."

Earlier Tuesday, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport stopped incoming and outgoing flights for about 45 minutes, and people working in two business towers were moved downstairs as a precaution, spokesman Ken Capps said.

Svacina said five people were injured in a 25-vehicle chain reaction accident on West Freeway in Fort Worth where high water was reported.