DALLAS – A series of storms packing strong winds and heavy rains hit North Texas on Tuesday, grounding hundreds of flights, forcing an airport control tower to evacuate briefly and sending floodwaters spilling into Dallas-area streets. Authorities were also searching for a teen who was apparently swept away by flood waters.
Street flooding was reported around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Hundreds of people in Lancaster, located just south of Dallas, were advised to evacuate their homes as nearby Ten Mile Creek rose.
In Mesquite, emergency officials from there and Balch Springs were searching for a 14-year-old apparently swept away by flood waters as he and a friend played in a creek earlier Tuesday afternoon. The missing teen's friend, who was able to swim to safety, said he saw his friend get sucked into a drainage pipe, according to a news release from the Mesquite Fire Department.
Winds of more than 100 mph briefly were reported at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where lightning struck a ramp earlier Tuesday. Airport officials said the strongest winds occurred in microbursts and caused no damage.
More than half of the 950 flights for all airlines scheduled to depart DFW on Tuesday were canceled, airport officials said. More than 100 incoming flights were diverted.
"This is one of the most vicious thunderstorms DFW has seen in quite some time, especially its ongoing intensity," said airport spokesman Ken Capps. "Add in two snow storms in the past two weeks and this has been one of the most unusual early spring weather patterns in years. We know it can be frustrating for passengers, but everyone's top priority is their safety."
It's unclear how many travelers were affected by the cancellations, but airport officials estimate about 160,000 passengers pass through DFW each day.
By Tuesday afternoon, the FAA began allowing about 30 aircraft an hour to depart. But continuing lightning and strong winds may ground more flights Tuesday evening, airport officials said.
Federal Aviation Administration officials evacuated DFW's west tower for about 15 minutes after seeing a funnel cloud over a highway. A funnel cloud was also spotted over Lake Lewisville, just north of the airport.
At Dallas Love Field, some 20 Southwest flights were canceled. Another 20 were diverted and many other flights were delayed, at most for three hours, said airline spokeswoman Ashley Rogers.
In the Dallas suburb of Lancaster, Ten Mile Creek spilled its banks after daylong rains, flooding at least one house and leaving a handful of cars stuck in watery streets.
In Lancaster, a woman was rescued from her yard and four other people were rescued from their vehicles, said Ciciely Hickmon, a spokeswoman for the city.
She said that the city has called 687 phone numbers along Ten Mile Creek, telling residents that the creek has reached its banks and advising them to evacuate.
In Red Oak, just south of Dallas, about 17 mobile homes were cleared out as a precautionary measure as Red Oak Creek continued to rise, said Renee Freeman, a communications supervisor for Red Oak police.
Dozens of streets were closed off in the Dallas area as waters continued to rise.
A Dallas Area Rapid Transit bus had to be abandoned by the driver and passengers when it became stranded in high water. Nobody was hurt.
South Dallas had around 4 1/2 to 5 inches of rain by late afternoon, said Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. About 3 inches had fallen at Love Field, which is near downtown Dallas. The Fort Worth area got about 1 to 2 inches of rain, he said.
"The real heavy rain was from downtown Dallas southward," Ryan said.
He said that it looked like the heaviest rain was over and about 1/2 to 1 inch of rain was expected over the area in the evening.
Weather led to cancellation of college baseball games in Waco, Fort Worth and Abilene.
The pattern of storms was expected to move out by Wednesday morning, said Tara Dudzik, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.