Up to a dozen tornadoes skipped through the densely populated Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas on Tuesday, ripping apart homes, tossing tractor-trailer trucks into the air and injuring at least 17 people, but there were no reported deaths.
Ten to 12 tornadoes touched down during a massive storm that brought chaos from high winds, rain and hail to the nation’s fourth-most populous metropolitan area, National Weather Service meteorologist Jesse Moore said.
Many of the 6.3 million area residents were forced to scramble for safety as the storm bore down during the early afternoon, when schools and workplaces were open.
Seven people were injured in the suburb of Arlington, police said. Most suffered only minor injuries, but one person hit by a falling tree was in critical condition, Arlington police spokeswoman Cheryl Carpenter said.
In one of the hardest hit areas south of Dallas, Lancaster, tornadoes damaged 300 structures.
Of the 10 people injured in Lancaster, two were severely hurt, Lancaster police spokesman Paul Beck said.
Authorities were amazed that no one was killed given the intensity of the storm, the number of tornadoes and the population density of the area.
“We dodged a big bullet ... It really is a miracle,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in an interview on CNN.
The survival rate from a tornado is higher during the daylight hours because people are more likely to hear or see the warnings and take cover, meteorologists said. Twisters are most deadly when people are sleeping at night, they said.
One tornado lifted trucks like toys in the Flying J Truck Plaza in Dallas, said truck driver Michael Glennon, who caught the destruction on his video camera as debris swirled through the air.
“We’ve seen roofs blown off, houses totally flattened, tractor-trailers knocked over,” Moore said.
On Tuesday evening, the storm system moved east into Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, with the potential of producing high winds and more tornadoes, Moore said.
About 110 planes were damaged by hail and 400 flights canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the eighth busiest in the world, stranding thousands of passengers. Another 40 incoming flights were diverted.
The US tornado season has started early this year. Tornadoes have been blamed for 57 deaths so far this year in the Midwest and South, raising concerns that this year would be a repeat of last year, the deadliest year in nearly a century for the unpredictable storms.
Last year, there were 550 tornado deaths, including 316 lives lost on April 27 in five southern states, and a massive tornado that killed 161 people in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22.