Severe weather descended on the North Texas region Monday, spawning tornadoes that ripped open schools and leveled homes in Jack and Montague counties northwest of Fort Worth and had much of the Dallas metropolitan area on high alert into the early evening hours.
In Jacksboro, both the high school and elementary school sustained heavy damage from a tornado that hit the town after 4 p.m. Photos posted by KXAS-TV (NBC5) showed the roof of the high school gym almost fully sheared off.
At the elementary school, some 300-350 children, faculty and bus drivers were sheltering in the center of the school when the storm hit, Jacksboro ISD Superintendent Brad Burnett told WFAA-TV (Channel 8). No one at either school was injured, he said.
An entire row of new homes on the outskirts of Jacksboro was wiped out, WFAA reported. The town’s animal shelter also was hit.
At the high school, many students had been let out early to get home before the storms. Jacksboro High principal Starla Sanders told WFAA that she was hunkered down with several remaining students and faculty members when the storm hit. She said they could feel and hear the building’s walls shaking, only seeing the extent of the damage to the school after the storm passed.
Sanders, talking from the school, told WFAA that she’d heard from neighbors that her own home had been heavily damaged in the storm. She said she has two boys who attend the elementary school and was relieved to hear no one was hurt there.
“This community rallies together,” she said optimistically. “They always do, so I’m not worried.”
In Montague County, multiple homes and other structures were flattened on the Salona Highway, north of Bowie, KXAS reported. City Manager Bert Cunningham reported several entrapments. Search-and-rescue operations were carried out, with no immediate reports of injuries.
KXAS also reported that a gas plant off State Highway 59 south of Bowie was damaged.
The weather service placed the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area under a tornado watch Monday afternoon. The advisory was upgraded to a tornado warning for parts of Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties, then was allowed to expire by 7 p.m. Severe thunderstorm warnings were also issued for much of the area, with small hail and winds up to 60 mph reported.
Tornado sirens could be heard from Fort Worth to Richardson as the band of storms pushed its way eastward in the early evening. People were advised to take shelter in a basement or interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.
The weather prompted the cancellation of about 350 flights in and out of DFW International Airport and about 100 at Dallas Love Field. DFW closed its ramps for roughly an hour, reopening them about 7:25 p.m.
As of 8 p.m., Oncor reported 535 outages affecting more than 40,000 customers across Texas.
The weather service also issued tornado warnings for parts of Cooke, Erath, Palo Pinto and Parker counties.
The storms impacted some sporting events, with the Dallas Mavericks’ 7:30 p.m. game against the Minnesota Timberwolves delayed at least 15 minutes due to leaks in the American Airlines Center.
Parts of Central and East Texas, especially the Austin and College Station areas, were threatened with hurricane-force winds of 75 mph or greater, along with baseball-sized hail and several tornadoes on Monday, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
In addition to the severe weather threat today, heavy rain may lead to minor flooding mainly across portions of East Texas. Non-thunderstorm winds will gradually strengthen today, gusting between 40-45 mph this afternoon. #dfwwx #ctxwx #txwx pic.twitter.com/lGO2P7MBWS
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) March 21, 2022
“You need to have an action plan in place, know what to do if there’s a tornado warning issued for your county, your area, especially this afternoon,” KXAS-TV (NBC5) meteorologist Grant Johnston said.
The weather service advised people to be alert to rapidly changing outlooks and have multiple ways — via phone, radio or TV — to get weather warnings.
The weather service cleared fire danger warnings Monday for many Central Texas counties ravaged by wildfires over the weekend. Johnston said the threat may return to the area with strong winds Tuesday and Wednesday.
⚠️Strong/Severe storms are expected today across North & Central Texas.
⚠️Large hail, damaging winds & tornadoes will all be possible.
📢You still have time to make a plan for today’s expected severe weather. Be prepared! #dfwwx #ctxwx #txwx pic.twitter.com/Lkvl43U5Hv
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) March 21, 2022
Temperatures Monday will be in the low 70s but drop into the 50s overnight, the forecast says.
“The storms will clear out tonight and much cooler air moves in,” Johnston said.
Here’s what NBC5′s latest forecast says:
Monday: 72/49. Mostly cloudy and windy with a 100% chance for widespread showers and thunderstorms. Some storms may be severe.
Tuesday: 57/49. Mostly cloudy, windy and much cooler.
Wednesday: 63/42. Mostly sunny, but still windy and cool.
Thursday: 65/40. Mostly sunny, breezy, and cool.
Friday: 78/40. Sunny and warmer.
Saturday: 74/49. Sunny and warm.
Sunday: 78/48. Sunny and warm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.