Se­vere storms thrash N.Texas, spare Austin

Houses hit in Rock­wall; storm chasers killed in West Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Wil­son md­wil­son@states­man.com

Af­ter days of fore­casts calling for da­m­ag­ing winds of up to 60 mph, large hail and even the pos­si­bil­ity of tor­na­does, Austin seems to have got­ten off rel­a­tively easy com­pared with other parts of Texas that were hit by a line of storms Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Lower Colorado River Author­ity rain gauges across Travis County tal­lied rain to­tals rang­ing from a lit­tle un­der an inch to just over 1.5 inches through the en­tire event. To the east, in Bas­trop County, gauges recorded to­tals of more than 2.5 inches.

The storm sys­tem that swept across Texas — stretched out in a long line from the Mex­ico bor­der all the way across Ok­la­homa — pe­tered out a lit­tle be­fore rolling into Austin, spar­ing the city from sig­nif­i­cant dam­age seen else­where in the state, Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Monte Oaks said.

The only storm-re­lated deaths re­ported Wed­nes­day in Texas oc­curred when three storm chasers, in­clud­ing two who worked for the Weather Chan­nel, were killed in a col­li­sion of their two ve­hi­cles near the town of Spur, about 55 miles south­east of Lub­bock. Kel­ley Wil­liamson, Randy Yar­nall and Corbin Lee Jaeger had been re­spond­ing to re­ports of pos­si­ble tor­na­does in the area.

Wind speeds in the Hill Coun­try were clocked at more than 60

mph, Oaks said, but once the sys­tem ar­rived in Austin, winds had dropped to about 30 to 45 mph.

A few scat­tered re­ports of some shin­gles be­ing stripped from homes in the Hill Coun­try rolled in through the morn­ing, but most of the dam­age re­ported was mi­nor, Oaks said.

Hun­dreds of area res­i­dents also were left with­out power for sev­eral hours in the morn­ing.

It was a dif­fer­ent case in North Texas, where storms ar­rived in the Dal­las-Fort Worth area around 11 p.m., and se­vere thun­der­storm and tor­nado warn­ings fol­lowed, weather ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Bianca Vil­lanueva said.

Au­thor­i­ties re­ceived nu­mer­ous re­ports of wind gusts of 60 mph or higher, Vil­lanueva said. One gust in Tar­rant County was es­ti­mated at 83 mph, and oth­ers in Frisco and Cameron hit be­tween 70 and 75 mph.

At least three homes in Rock­wall, north­east of Dal­las, were sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged or out­right de­stroyed by winds that me­te­o­rol­o­gists said reached close to 100 mph. Rock­wall Mayor Jim Pruitt said one per­son was in­jured.

As sur­vey­ors be­gan assess­ing the area, au­thor­i­ties blamed gusts of 90 to 95 mph. They hadn’t found any ev­i­dence of a tor­nado as of 3 p.m., but au­thor­i­ties hadn’t ruled one out.

Weather ser­vice dam­age sur­vey­ors have also been dis­patched to north­ern Tar­rant and south­ern Den­ton coun­ties, along with sev­eral other lo­ca­tions to in­spect dam­age and con­firm whether any tor­na­does had touched down.

So far, most of the dam­age in North Texas has been chalked up to thun­der­storm winds.

Much of the Metro­plex saw about an inch of rain, while harder hit ar­eas recorded about 1.5 inches, Vil­lanueva said.

The weather ser­vice con­firmed that at least one tor­nado touched down in Uvalde County, about half­way be­tween San An­to­nio and Del Rio.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Nikki Hath­away said the storms lost some steam as they ap­proached Hous­ton late Wed­nes­day morn­ing, but were still strong enough to prompt the weather ser­vice to is­sue a tor­nado warn­ing for the area near the Gal­le­ria shop­ping com­plex from around 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., along with a flood ad­vi­sory that ex­pired shortly af­ter noon.

Wide­spread wind speeds in the area were recorded at 30 to 40 mph with stronger gusts.

Hath­away said the weather ser­vice re­ceived re­ports of nickel-sized hail, fre­quent lightning, downed trees and some dam­age to car­ports in the area as the sys­tem moved through more quickly than an­tic­i­pated.

She said au­thor­i­ties will send sur­vey crews out into Har­ris County to de­ter­mine whether any tor­na­does sprung up in that area.

While fore­cast­ers are calling for sunny skies across Texas over the next cou­ple of days, more storms are ex­pected to hit the re­gion over the week­end. The out­look calls for a 50 to 70 per­cent chance of rain for Satur­day and Sun­day. But Oaks said it is still too early to tell how sim­i­lar the ap­proach­ing sys­tem might be to Wed­nes­day’s storms.

ROSE BACA / THE DAL­LAS MORN­ING NEWS

At least three homes in Rock­wall, north­east of Dal­las, were se­verely dam­aged by a storm early Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Au­thor­i­ties re­ceived re­ports of winds of close to 100 mph there. Once the storm sys­tem ar­rived in Austin, winds had dropped to 30-45 mph.

ROSE BACA / THE DAL­LAS MORN­ING NEWS

Den­nis Day­man of the Rock­wall Fire Depart­ment stands with wife Jennifer out­side a dam­aged home in Rock­wall on Wed­nes­day. Wind gusts re­port­edly reached nearly 100 mph the night be­fore.

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