DALLAS - Teams from the National Weather Service were out surveying the damage to determine how many tornadoes hit North Texas Wednesday.
The NWS focused on Denton, Rockwall, Kemp, Mabank and Canton. They have already confirmed at least eight tornadoes stretching from Denton and Tarrant counties to Zan Zandt County.
There was an EF-0 tornado in the Denton County city of Krum, an EF-1 tornado in the Heritage Trace subdivision in north Fort Worth, EF-0 tornadoes near Saginaw and Rockwall, an EF-2 tornado in Kaufman County, and three tornadoes - an EF-2 and two EF-1s - in or near Canton.
The city best known for its monthly flea markets may have been the hardest hit. Canton, located 60 miles east of Dallas, suffered heavy damage.
Businesses in the center of town near the intersection of state highways 19 and 64 were torn apart, shattering glass and scattering debris. Crews worked overtime to clear the debris from people’s homes. The storm uprooted huge trees and one homeowner told FOX 4 his mom’s car was crushed.
“It wasn’t super loud, but you could just hear a crunching,” said Billy Bateman. “And you could feel like suction — like literally feel it like it was sucking outwards.”
Neighbors had to work quickly to cover their roofs with tarps because as soon as the tornado passed, it started raining heavily. Now crews are out fixing power lines.
Thankfully, there were no reports of any serious injuries. People were able to find a safe spot during the storm, including employees who took shelter in a bathroom at a local gas station that took a hard it.
“You know, I’m a very positive person. You know, everybody is great and everything can be rebuilt. We just got through painting the store yesterday. So we’re going to get another fresh coat of paint here soon,” said Kevin Deibert, the owner of Mr. D’s gas station.
Jose Parga and his crew have been busy all day cleaning up the damage at one home where a tornado tossed a neighbor’s car port into the trees and knocked other trees into the house.
“The tree was on the house and it was swaying, so you can imagine the adrenaline rush for me and the guys. We had to rig it and bring it down,” Parga said.
Parga says they’ve been flooded with calls and predicts they’ll be busy for the next month with jobs cleaning up tornado damage.
Larry Watson was outside with his son, who spotted the tornado right as it came upon their house Wednesday afternoon.
“It was about the most exhilarating 30 seconds of my life,” Watson joked. “All of a sudden he said, ‘Here it comes.’ I looked up and saw everything rotating from the left to right.”
There was barely time to get inside.
“Just praying the roof didn’t come off and the house imploding,” Watson added.
Watson and his family took shelter in the bathroom, and came outside to find several trees ripped apart and uprooted.
But many homeowners here have experienced tornadoes before, and know how much more devastating it could’ve been.
“I’m just glad we survived it, thank God,” Watson said.
Despite the damage in town, Canton’s First Monday Trade Days starts this weekend and seems to be unaffected and moving forward as scheduled.
At least one tornado touched down in southern Kaufman County. The towns of Kemp and Mabank had a couple of dozen homes damaged or destroyed.
A portion of the garage was ripped away from a home on Country Club Drive in Kemp. The 93-year-old homeowner said she took cover in her bathroom as a tornado hit her neighborhood.
Her grandson, who lives a few doors down, described the experience as traumatic. He actually saw the tornado forming.
“I was standing in my front driveway and saw the rotation starting in the clouds, just on the back side of the golf course. I tried to get in through the house to the other side to catch video of it and as it started to come down across the country club too much debris started flying around. I had to take cover and duck back inside,” said Anthony Mercer. “It’s just like they normally say, you know. You hear the train sound and the roaring and that’ exactly what happened.”
Remarkably, Mercer’s house was not damaged. His grandmother stayed at a hotel because the power in the neighborhood was out until about 3:30 a.m.
Kaufman County emergency officials said only one person in the county suffered minor injuries because of Wednesday’s storms. That person was treated and released without needing to go to the hospital.
Local officers and state troopers are now watching out for any looters who might try to come into the neighborhood near the country club.
In far north Fort Worth, winds up to 90 mph from an EF-1 tornado uprooted trees, tossed yard furniture around and knocked down fences. At least one trampoline ended up on top of a house. Rooftops and some windows were damaged in a subdivision near Interstate 35 and Heritage Trace.
Again there were no reports of serious injuries in Tarrant County. People were able to take cover inside their homes as the storms passed through. Some of them described the terrifying moments.
“It was very quiet and then all of a sudden I knew there was something because I heard it,” said Katy Brakemier.
“Really was surprised because I think it just came through right this little corridor,” added Jim Song.
After the storm passed, neighbors immediately started helping each other remove debris and cover affected areas. The fire department also brought tarps and other materials to help residents clean up.