As a tornado bore down on a densely populated area of Dallas on Sunday night, the local NBC station waited several minutes before breaking into the telecast of the Dallas Cowboys' home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the station admitted Monday during an apology to viewers.
The Dallas-Fort Worth television station KXAS, which is owned and operated by NBC, waited six minutes before interrupting "NBC Sunday Night Football" after the National Weather Service issued its tornado warning for Dallas County.
While other network-affiliated stations went with wall-to-wall coverage of the severe storms impacting the region, the NBC station stayed with the football game, which it called a "mistake" on Monday.
"When it comes to dealing with severe weather, we know that seconds matter. We should have broken into football programming sooner," the station said in a statement posted to its website. "We apologize and want you to know that we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again."
The station noted that its meteorologists were streaming live weather coverage on its website, and that it gave updates with on-screen texts.
But many, including on social media, said they did not know about the twister until they heard sirens — or until the tornado was already on top of them.
Hannah Wanebo tweeted that her family was watching the game and heard sirens but "initially didn’t think it was too serious because there was nothing on TV."
"They KNEW it was on the ground!! we hunkered down and still heard football from the living room. Meanwhile it was mere blocks away," she said.
Others shared screengrabs of the station sticking with football programming.
"Literally every news station in Dallas:tornado warning, tornado on the ground
NBC:continues to show cowboy game and ignore tornados," another Twitter user wrote.
The NWS said the tornado that ripped through North Dallas was an EF3 that had a maximum wind speed of 140 mph.
The tornado that caused widespread damage in north Dallas passed close to the home of former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush but caused no damage.
Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said in a statement that "the Bushes are safe and praying for their neighbors around DFW who weren't as fortunate."
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said Monday the city was "very fortunate" to have no deaths after the storm crossed over two major highways and destroyed numerous structures.
Another tornado in the Dallas-area suburb of Rowlett was categorized as an EF1, with maximum wind speeds of 100 mph.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were left without power Monday after the swathe of heavy storms hit Dallas before tracking northeast into Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 16 Texas counties.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.