By Marty Sabota
FORT WORTH -- Three rounds of storms swept through North Texas on Tuesday night, producing rain, hail, high wind and unconfirmed reports of tornadoes.
"This is one of the biggest storm systems to hit the area since 2007," said Mark Fox, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
The storm was caused by "a large upper low moving into the area and a dry line, allowing the storm to fire," he said.
Storm sirens prompted people to head for cover in Tarrant, Parker and Denton counties and elsewhere in North Texas.
"We don't know the extent of the damage. We're just trying to keep people safe right now," Juan Ortiz, emergency management coordinator for Fort Worth and Tarrant County, said about 8 p.m.
An Irving police officer was struck by lightning while placing flares in the road at Loop 12 and Shady Grove Road. He was in good condition at an area hospital.
An Oncor spokeswoman said power was knocked out to tens of thousands of customers.
"The outages followed the path of the storm," Ashley Burton said. "Our crews are working as quickly and safety as possible to restore power."
At least one tornado reportedly touched down in the Azle area.
"We heard reports of rain-wrapped tornadoes, meaning the heavy rain masks the tornado," Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said. "You don't know it's there till it whacks you."
About 9 p.m., a twisted heap of metal that used to be the roof of the Azle Arts Association's theater was sitting in the parking lot of Josefina's Mexican Cafe. Both businesses, along the service road of Texas 199, sustained significant damage.
The roof hit the top of the cafe, where it destroyed air-conditioning units, knocked down a power line and smashed the back of a Ford pickup before stopping.
About 20 people were dining at the time, but no one was injured, owner MaLuisa Raga said.
Lisha Gregson, president of the Azle Arts Association Popcorn Players, said the damage couldn't have come at a worse time.
"We have a play June 10," Gregson said. "We pray we get a roof by then."
Along the border of the cities of Denton and Arygle, two homes in the Country Lakes development on Crawford Road sustained significant damage, and nearby homes had lesser damage, Denton police spokesman Ryan Grelle said. Funnel clouds were sighted but no touchdowns were reported, he said.
The Rangers-White Sox game at Rangers Ballpark was stopped at 8:23 p.m. as the storm reached Arlington. Fans in the upper deck were the first asked to move. Then everyone was told to evacuate.
About 9 p.m., the Rangers had fans move from the main concourse into the service tunnel at the clubhouse level. The game finally resumed after a three-hour delay; the Rangers lost.
Golf-ball-sized hail was reported elsewhere in the city.
Numerous flights were delayed at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, and hail damaged up to 100 taxis beginning about 8 p.m., airport spokesman David Magaña said.
Many departing planes returned to the terminals and passengers got off before the storm arrived. Employees moved them away from windows and into sheltered areas.
Large hail damaged as many as 100 cabs at the taxi queue on the south end of the airport, Magaña said, but no injuries were reported.
Residents on the west side of Saginaw believe that a small tornado tore down fences, stripped shingles from roofs and broke limbs in the Whisper Wood Estates neighborhood off Old Decatur Road.
Melissa Chavez, who lives on Jan Court, was in her front yard taking photos of the approaching storm about 7:30 p.m. when she heard a sound like a freight train and felt a change in pressure.
"I tried to get into the house, but I could not open the door," she said. "Even with my son's and brother-in-law's help, we could not get the door open."
Down the road, Rodney Lane saw circulation in the sky and went indoors. His next-door neighbor's fence was blown apart, with a part of it knocking the chimney off her roof.
He said that his neighbors' fences are gone and that there was other minor damage. No damage was apparent in the commercial area of town.
Across Northeast Tarrant County, hail, wind and rain were reported, but no rotating clouds or serious damage.
Ashleigh Whiteman, Hurst community relations manager, stood near a window to describe the scene around her home. But she was never far from the interior closet she had prepared in case she needed better shelter.
"It got really eerie," she said. "Ominous. We got fairly large hail, about golf-ball-size, for 30 seconds to a minute. Our sirens sounded about 8 p.m., but we never saw a tornado."
Colleyville City Manager Jennifer Fadden reported no major incidents, although she said the sky was "very ugly" about 8:40 p.m.
"Back to the east, the clouds are very wicked," she said. "We activated our outdoor warning sirens a little before 8 p.m., as most Tarrant County cities did."
Colleyville got hail, high wind and a significant amount of rain, and by 8:45 p.m. it was all over.
"We're happy to be clear of it," Fadden said.
An Irving police officer who was placing flares in a road at Loop 12 and Shady Grove was struck by lightning. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was reported in good condition this morning, according to Irving police.
Irving police reported that hail and strong winds caused damage to vehicles, buildings and trees throughout the city. No major damage was reported, but officials will be out this morning to make an extensive assessment of damages.
Minor damage also was reported at the Four Seasons Resort, where the Byron Nelson will be held this week.
Staff writers Gordon Dickson, Sandra Engelland, Terry Evans, Susan McFarland, Steve Norder and Domingo Ramirez contributed to this report.
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367
Biggest Storm System In Years Hits Dallas-Fort Worth
By Marty Sabota
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