Reports of a possible tornado or several twisters in Somervell County has left many residents wondering what last week’s storm actually brought to the area.
Damaging winds associated with a powerful storm that blew across much of North Texas in the early morning hours of Thursday, April 10 still has numerous residents picking up the pieces and debris from trees that were twisted and uprooted, and structures that were in some cases completely destroyed.
According to Jennifer Dunn, meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office in Fort Worth, the weather system was not just one storm, but an entire line of storms known as a squall line.
Dunn says the line of storms brought damaging winds of up to 75 mph and several embedded tornadoes, although weather observers did not report a twister actually making touch down in Somervell County.
“At one point we issued a tornado warning for Somervell County at 3 a.m. when we detected a possible tornado was forming,” said Dunn. Due to the line of thunderstorms moving quickly across the area, the warning only lasted 15 minutes.
“There very well could have been some funnel clouds. We noticed some rotation with that storm causing the issuance of the tornado warning,” said Dunn, citing data from last week’s weather. “As far as wind speeds, we don’t have any estimates from the Glen Rose area, but with that line we saw 60-75 mph winds occurring with the squall line across the region.”
Confirmation of a tornado in neighboring Johnson County was made by the NWS near Alvarado, said Dunn, but the widespread damage was primarily from straight-line winds.
“The line seemed to intensify as it got closer to Interstate 35,” Dunn reported. “From about Somervell County northward is where the most intense portion of the storm passed. We saw the intensity increase as it hit Somervell, Johnson and Hill counties, and it continued to do more damage and strengthen as it moved eastward.”
Rainfall totals were minimal as the storm raced out of the area at 70 mph, said Dunn, leaving less than a half-inch of rain near Glen Rose. “Our observer in Rainbow reported 0.48 inches on the 10th. The Glen Rose gauge on the Brazos River reported 0.43 inches of precipitation.”
The fact that the squall line was moving so fast, Dunn says, it couldn’t dump much rain. “We expected much heavier rains, but luckily we avoided flash flooding issues.”
The NWS meteorologist says a similar weather event hit the area on May 2, 2006, but this time many residents say last week’s storms were the most intense they’ve seen.
Dunn says in last week’s event, an upper-level low approached from the west and with an unstable atmosphere, the conditions were ripe for a serious storm. “The combination allowed for the development of the squall line in the evening hours and it just marched across the state.”
She also noted the storm as a “very conductive” event, producing a light show of sorts as lightning lit the dark skies. “The atmosphere, being very charged and conductive, and a combination of other atmospheric ingredients, produced lots of electricity in the atmosphere and lots of lightning.”
Picking up the pieces
When daylight broke last Thursday, area residents woke to find their homes and barns damaged, and yards littered with everything from tree limbs to sheets of tin roofing.
Willie Kliem, who resides off of CR 419 in the Nemo area, reported that his 12-foot by 50-foot porch was ripped off by the high winds. “It blew on top of the house leaving five holes in the roof, then flew over the house and landed near the shed. It shredded several trees and outbuildings in the process.”
Kliem, a former resident of the Gulf Coast who’s lived through several hurricanes, said his family has experienced severe storms, but “nothing in that magnitude” in this area.
“It was like 3 o’clock when we heard the wind, and of course the porch hitting the top of the house. The whole thing didn’t last but three or four seconds,” said Kliem. “I got my wife and daughter up to head out to the storm cellar but we didn’t have time to get it to by the time it was over.”
With no warning, Kliem says he’s lucky his home wasn’t leveled. “It (damage) was really spotty here on my place. It hit my house and went across my pond and shredded my trees, then jumped over the RV and leveled a 50-foot willow tree about 20 yards from that.”
Kliem says several bird feeders hanging on a tree survived and were still full of seed, although a cap to one of his finch feeders blew into the neighbor’s yard.
“Some of our trees were twisted on the tops and some were uprooted,” Kliem said. “The place looked like a park before it hit and now it’s a little rough looking. We can deal with that. We’re unharmed and that’s the most important part.”
To help with rebuilding his home, Kliem’s employer of 10 years prior to his retirement, Gilbane Inc., flew several volunteers to Dallas from as far away as Sacramento and Boston to help with the clean-up. “My company has put a lot of effort and money to take care of us out here. We’re very humbled for that. As the word got out, they had volunteers sent out on Sunday and had a lot of the place cleaned up.”
For Donna Lewellen, who resides 3.5 miles west of Glen Rose off of US Hwy. 67, the damage was just as severe where the storms took out more than 40 trees.
“We had roof and porch damage, and damage to our well house,” said Lewellen. “One of our storage buildings, it ripped off the front door and the roof, and we estimate 40 to 60 trees were lost.”
Luckily, Lewellen reported no interior damage to her home. “What probably saved our house was our front porch. That’s what caught the blunt of the elm tree which fell onto our house.
“I can tell you exactly when it hit … at three minutes to 3 (a.m.),” said Lewellen. “Everybody asks what it sounds like and you hear people say it sounds like a freight train. This storm, it sounded like when a bolt of lightning hits … like it hit the house, and at the same time it sounded like hail hit the tin roof.”
Lewellen says the noise was most likely the limbs and leaves falling on her home. The next day she noticed the side of her home plastered with leaves blown by the high winds
“It felt like a car ran into the side of the house,” said Lewellen. “I watched our back porch. The chairs and swing set were flipped in the air, landing about 40 feet from where it was.”
Lewellen noted that the winds moved a metal burn barrel approximately 500 yards from her home. “The winds also took the shed off of the well house but the weedeater was still hanging on the hook in the shed, just upside down.”
“The worst thing was for us was losing our trees. It took big limbs out,” said Lewellen. “My sons and husband cleared out the yard using a 16-foot trailer. They hauled off seven loads of limbs from the trees in the yard and we’re still cleaning up.”
County Commissioner Mike Ford said residents in Precinct 2 reported “quite a bit” of damage through the southern end of the county.
“If we had a tornado it never touched down, but came to about 20-30 feet off the ground. That’s just an observation,” said Ford, who reported several sheds and outbuildings were completely destroyed or severely damaged.”
Suffering some damage to his own property, including some metal roofing that blew off, Ford says it appeared straight-line winds were the culprit. “Wind just does some funny things, but my damage compared to others I know of in the precinct is just nothing.”
Also citing no prior warning that the storm would be as strong as it was, Ford said “we just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time as far as I can tell.”
County Judge Walter Maynard, who was out of town when the storm rumbled through the area, says no county facilities suffered any damages. “The info I was given by the sheriff’s department is that the weather bureau is going to come out and evaluate some of the damage in the county.”
Maynard says the storms appear to have entered near the southwest county line, crossing the entire county. “You can pretty well trace its path straight across Somervell.”
The judge also reported one local family who requested assistance from the American Red Cross after their mobile home was destroyed near the Fossil Rim area. Disaster relief specialists from Waco reportedly responded, Maynard said.
At Glen Rose ISD, Superintendent Wayne Rotan says one classroom at the Intermediate campus is currently not in use due to water damage that leaked in when a portion of the school’s roof was blown off.
“It blew off two 10-foot by 20-foot panels of the metal roof over the music room,” said Rotan. “When it removed the roof, of course, the drop ceiling on the inside was exposed and we had some water damage to the room.”
An insurance adjuster visited the school on Tuesday and no estimate was provided by press time.
Rotan reported that the facility is secure and temporary roofing had been installed. “The room is not being used now. We had some stuff in a storage closet that got wet and had that stuff out for the adjuster to look at. As soon as its repaired we’ll have students back in the classroom.”
Rotan says the school district is fortunate that the damage was minimal, adding that the winds were “pretty amazing.”
“A portion of the metal roof was rolled up like a can opener went across it. The damage here, it went in paths. You can see strips where the damage occurred and there were definite patterns.”