FORT WORTH, Texas – Tornadoes and strong storms slammed into North Texas neighborhoods Tuesday night, demolishing and damaging homes, ripping the roof from a church and snarling air and ground traffic.
As soon as 77-year-old Eliza Cook heard the storm pounding against her one-story brick house 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. Cook said she lived in the house 54 years and had never been in a tornado. She lost part of her roof, nearly all her windows and a tree in her front yard. Glass cut into her house shoes, but never scratched her skin, she said.
Nearby, police blocked several roads due to concerns of gas leaks, said Fort Worth Police Department Lt. Duane Paul. He said there were few injuries because many people in the area weren't home during the storm.
Annette Brown, 42, said she and her mother were inside their home in east Fort Worth when they heard the storm and ran into the bathroom for cover. When they emerged to survey the damage, they saw their carport had been ripped from the front yard and had landed in the back yard, with two poles thrust in the ground like javelins.
"But the Lord was good," Brown said. "It didn't land on the roof. It went on over."
Debris covered yards, telephone poles slanted downward, and power was out in some areas.
Ten children in daycare at Handley United Methodist Church in Fort Worth got a scare when the storm hit. They crouched in the hallway of the administrative building, and no one was injured.
But the tornado left a gaping hole in the high, peaking roof of the 1961 church, leaving the sanctuary visible from the outside. As word spread of the damage, about 50 members gathered to nail plywood boards over holes where stained glass windows had been and put plastic tarp over naked patches on the roof.
"It was just unbelievable, the amount of damage I saw," said Bob Whitt, a 30-year church member and chairman of the board.
Dave Beck was in a Fort Worth machine shop when the storm hit.
"I got on the floor against the wall; he got under a shop work bench," he said. "By the time we got there, the roof was gone and the whole deal was finished."
"All the tools in the shop were flying around. That's when I ducked under that table," said Dale Hennington.
Pat Svacina, spokesman for the city of Fort Worth, said damage was reported in three areas of the city. Eighteen to 20 mobile homes were damaged in a mobile home park in south Fort Worth, and at least eight houses were destroyed and six more damaged in an eastern part of the city.
Svacina said 25 vehicles were involved in a chain reaction accident on West Freeway where high water was reported. He said five people were injured in the accident.
Tornadoes also flattened some homes in a subdivision in Arlington, as well as some buildings near a power plant in Arlington.
"It was a silent tornado. You could hear the hail," Arlington resident James Tabor told Dallas TV station KTVT. "All of the sudden it was quiet. I thought, 'Uh oh. It's here."'
Funnel clouds dropped from the sky across Tarrant County.
Two tornadoes touched down briefly in Johnson County, but no damage was reported, said Sheriff Bob Alford. The storm, marked by intense hail and rain, was moving toward the town of Cleburne, where officers were urging residents to take cover, he said.
DFW airport spokesman Ken Capps said the airport halted incoming and outgoing flights for about 45 minutes, and people working in two business towers at the airport were moved downstairs as a precaution. Passengers in all four terminals were safe, he said.
"The airport may soon go to its 'concessions plan' shortly, where concessionaires will stay open to accommodate passengers throughout the evening. Passengers need to check the flight tracker feature on www.dfwairport.com for the latest on flight delays, or call your airlines," he said.
Arlington police Lt. James Hawthorne said police were checking for damage. He said there were no reports of injuries.
"I know that we had officers say there were tornadoes down, debris flying," he said. He didn't know how much damage might have occurred.
The storms began to develop late in the afternoon south of Fort Worth and took aim on the metropolitan area during the rush hour.