North Texas residents and officials are assessing damage Monday morning from a tornado that ripped through Dallas late Sunday evening.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-3 tornado with wind speeds up to 140 mph touched down in Dallas around 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The tornado left heavy damage in areas near Love Field, including along Walnut Hill Lane, where it destroyed several homes and businesses. During a press conference Monday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the storm caused extensive property damage, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported.
"I think we should consider ourselves very fortunate that we did not lose any lives, no fatalities and no serious injuries in last night's storms," Johnson said.
Whoa... Insane view of Dallas tornado, that moved through moments ago. pic.twitter.com/Uzmzy2JGBA— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) October 21, 2019
In the Preston Royal shopping center, the tornado tore roofs from buildings, smashed through brick walls and shattered plate-glass windows. On Monday morning, a tangle of downed limbs and debris littered the shopping center's parking lot.
About 12:30 p.m. Monday, Oncor reported that more than 71,000 customers in Dallas remained without power.
Classes are canceled Monday at 20 Dallas ISD schools where the storm knocked out power or caused heavy damage. Damage was most severe at Thomas Jefferson High School, Edward H. Cary Middle School and Walnut Hill Elementary School, district officials reported. Pershing Elementary School also sustained damage.
Robyn Harris, a spokeswoman for the district, said it's "highly possible" that students from campuses that sustained damage will need to be moved to other schools while repairs take place.
St. Mark's School of Texas is also closed Monday due to storm damage. In a Facebook post, school leaders asked students, teachers and staff not to come to campus for safety reasons.
Staffers at KNON radio reported the storm broke windows and caused heavy damage at the station's studio in North Dallas. No one at the studio was injured.
The Dallas tornado was one of at least three that touched down Sunday night in North Texas. The National Weather Service also confirmed an EF-1 tornado caused damage in Rowlett and an EF-0 twister swept through Van Zandt County.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 16 counties affected by Sunday night's storm outbreak. Those counties are Cass, Cameron, Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Erath, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Panola, Rains, Rockwall, Rusk, Tarrant, Van Zandt and Wood.
The disaster declaration waives certain regulations and makes state resources available to local officials in affected areas.
“By issuing this declaration, Texas is providing local officials with the resources they need to quickly respond and recover from this storm,” Abbott said. “My heart goes out to the Texans impacted by this severe weather, and the people of Texas can rest assured that the state will do everything it can to assist those affected by these horrific storms.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a countywide disaster declaration Monday morning. Jenkins said the declaration allows out-of-state resources to assist Oncor with debris removal and power line repair.
Julie Cacopardo had just finished an episode of Good Girls when the howling started. She and her 10-year-old daughter, Ivy Diaz, hid in a closet in the center of the house and waited out the storm, which tore off their attic and left a gaping hole in the ceiling of the master bedroom. They eventually escaped through the front window.
She returned the next morning to the stench of gas. She was on hold with 911 for an hour, she said. But firefighters came shortly after, suited up and emerged from the rubble with their 18-month-old kitten, Kitty.
Monday morning, their family and neighbors were clearing debris from the street, still in shock.
“Mother Nature's gonna tell you who's boss,” said Michael Hellmann, who had climbed a gravel pile and was surveying the apocalyptic scene outside the Preston Royal shopping center.
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Trees and downed power lines littered the streets in all directions. The storm had blown the doors and shingles off his house.
“We lost every tree in this neighborhood, that’s the most devastating part,” said Hellmann, who used to work for Dallas Parks and Recreation. “You can rebuild a house but you can’t regrow a 100-year-old tree."
Ken Malcolmson, the CEO of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, was surveying the damage to the chamber's new storefront. The roof had blown off into the bank next door. “Nothing’s salvageable on the inside,” he said.
“It's clearly sad because these are thriving businesses," he said. "But people will come back. They always do."