POSTED: 10:27 a.m. HST, Apr 4, 2012
FORNEY, Texas >> As a twister bore down on her neighborhood, Sherry Enochs grabbed the three young children in her home and hid in her bathtub. The winds swirled and snatched away two of the children. Her home collapsed around her.
Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt.
Enochs, 53, stood today amid the wreckage of what was once her home in the North Texas city of Forney, among the hardest hit by a series of tornadoes that barreled through one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas a day earlier. No one was reported dead, and of the more than 20 injured, only a handful were seriously hurt.
The National Weather Service is investigating how the tornadoes — which appeared to flatten some homes and graze others next door — jumped from place to place, perhaps limiting what could have been a more damaging, deadly storm.
Weather service meteorologist Jesse Moore said crews in Forney, east of Dallas spotted damage suggesting a twister there was an EF3 tornado, with wind speeds as high as 165 mph. Other tornadoes in Arlington and Lancaster appear to have been EF2 tornadoes, with wind speeds up to 135 mph. Officials were expected to formally announce findings on the storm's intensity later today.
In the Diamond Creek subdivision where Enochs' home was destroyed, residents put on work gloves and began cleaning up. Many noticed things in their front yards that didn't belong to them.
Enochs doesn't have a clear memory of exactly how things happened Tuesday, but she was found holding her grandson in the bathtub, which had blown into the area where her garage once was. A 3-year-old she was watching was found wandering around the backyard. A neighbor pulled another child Enochs had been taking care of, 19-month-old Abigail Jones, from the rubble.
"I heard the rumbling from the tornado and I didn't even hear the house fall," Enochs said.
Abigail was taken to the hospital but released. The blonde, smiling child with bows in her hair was bruised on her cheek and forehead, but not seriously hurt. Her mother, Misty Jones, brought her back today to see what had happened.
Seven people were injured in Forney, none seriously. An additional 10 people were hurt in Lancaster, south of Dallas, and three people in Arlington, west of Dallas.
"If you really think about it, the fact that everybody who woke up in Forney yesterday is alive today in Forney, that's a real blessing," Mayor Darren Rozell said.
Randy McKeever worked with his wife and several friends to sort through what was left of their house. Their roof was completely gone. The front yard was littered with shingles and pieces of wood. Inside was a jumble of belongings. McKeever, 47, wore work gloves as he tried to sort through them to see what he could salvage.
"There's a bunch of stuff in there that's not even ours," he said.
At an Arlington nursing home, physical therapist Patti Gilroy saw a swirling mass bearing down on the building.
"It sounded like a bomb hit. And we hit the floor, and everybody was praying. It was shocking," said Gilroy, who rounded up dozens to safety at Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
An entire wing of the nursing home crumbled in the storm.
Stunning video from Dallas showed big-rig trailers tossed into the air and spiraling like footballs. At the Cedar Valley Christian Center church in Lancaster, Pastor Glenn Young said he cowered in a windowless room with 30 children from a daycare program, some of them newborns.
Hundreds of flights into and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field were canceled or diverted elsewhere Tuesday. About 500 flights remained grounded today, airport officials said. And thousands remained without power.
But most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storm.
The exact number and strength of the tornadoes won't be known until surveyors have fanned across North Texas, looking for clues among the debris that blanketed yards and rooftops peeled off slats.
April is typically the worst month in a tornado season that stretches from March to June, but Tuesday's outburst suggests that "we're on pace to be above normal," said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop.