Cleanup starts after tornadoes tear through Dallas-Fort Worth area

In Lancaster, Texas, south of Dallas, roofs were stripped to bare plywood and houses were speared by flying two-by-fours.

Tree falls on porch in Dallas, Texas after Tuesday's tornadoes

Tree falls on porch in Dallas, Texas after Tuesday's tornadoes (April 4, 2012)

Texas

Cleanup efforts began in Texas after tornadoes ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth area Tuesday, tossing tractor-trailers like toys, forcing airlines to cancel flights and causing widespread damage.

In Lancaster, Texas, south of Dallas, roofs were stripped to bare plywood and houses were speared by flying two-by-fours. About 300 buildings suffered damage, according to the city's mayor. A city-wide curfew was put in place and a shelter was opened.

"It was like 'The Wizard of Oz,' " said Gwen Dabbs, who wasn't able to make it to an interior room before the storm blew her windows out. She huddled in a corner of her living room covered with blankets as the tornado passed.

"My body is sore from being in the corner. But I don't have not a cut, not a scratch, and I'm so thankful. Thank you, Lord," she said.

CNN affiliate WFAA broadcast striking video of area damage, showing tractor-trailers being lifted and flipped like matchsticks. Ominous clouds filled the skies, making it as dark as night.

"The pictures that you're seeing and that I'm seeing are just horrific. We've got reports of a number of injuries, but no reports of fatalities at the present time," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

One tornado was spotted on the ground just five miles east of downtown Dallas, the National Weather Service said. In all, there were about a dozen reports of tornadoes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but some may have been of the same twister.

Likely just two or three tornadoes ripped through the region Tuesday, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.

"I'd estimate the tornadoes that moved through the DFW area this afternoon to be EF1 -- or EF2 at their strongest. This is fairly weak in terms of tornadoes, but we saw the awesome power of the twisters as they lifted the trailers several hundred feet in the air," he said.

The severe weather affected flights and aircraft at area airports.

More than 110 aircraft at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport sustained various degrees of hail damage, the airport said. It reported airlines canceled 400 departures, and more than three dozen incoming flights were diverted to other airports because of the storm.

Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, canceled more than 40 flights at Dallas Love Field, while American Airlines canceled all flights through Tuesday evening at Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the world's busiest airports.

The announcement, made via Twitter, was likely to affect American flights in other parts of the country. In all, American and its American Eagle partner airline canceled 234 outbound flights, according to a statement from American.

By Tuesday evening, more than 47,000 homes and businesses in north Texas were without power, said a spokeswoman for Oncor Electric Delivery.

Jonathan Cook said he was in a bank in south Fort Worth when the storm rolled in and he decided to leave. He went to a nearby gas station, where he ran into a friend whose window had been blown out and a National Weather Service worker with a radio who told them tornadoes were touching down nearby.

"A girl said 'Look up.' And there were two funnel clouds that touched down about an eighth of a mile up from us, and debris was flying and we were trying to decide where to go.

"About that time, she said, 'Look behind us' -- and a third tornado formed behind us, but hadn't touched down," Cook said. "And about three minutes after that, the sirens started sounding."

Among the most dramatic images of the day were from a freight truck depot on the south side of Dallas, where one twister flung semi-trailers high in the air and hundreds of feet from their parking spots.

The lot is owned by Wisconsin-based Schneider National Trucking Company. Company spokeswoman Janet Bonkowski said there were no injuries at the facility and no damage to the building, "but significant damage to the equipment that was in our yard."

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