USA — A cloud of dust stretching from Lubbock to the Metroplex limitedvisibility for thousands of residents Saturday afternoon, with accompanyingwinds knocking out power to more than 90,000 residences and businesses,officials said.
The gusts of up to 60 mph played havoc with power lines and traffic signals,causing numerous outages and traffic tie-ups. Dallas/Fort Worth Airportsuspended most operations after noon because “a perfect storm of wind”made it too dangerous to risk takeoffs or landings, officials said.
By midafternoon about 40,000 residences and businesses in Tarrant County and50,000 more in Dallas County were reportedly without power, said Carol Peters, aspokeswoman for TXU Electric Delivery. By 9 p.m. that had dwindled to 24,000 inthe Metroplex, and the goal was to restore all services by this afternoon.
“Additional crews and contractors have been called in to assist withrepairs, and all available crews are working,” Peters said. “The windhas dropped considerably, which is aiding our effort to make repairs.”
American Airlines canceled 556 flights at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport becauseof straight winds of 35 to 45 knots across the airport. It was the longestperiod that D/FW was inactive since 9-11.
“Winds about 20 to 25 [knots] will affect aircraft,” said airportspokesman David Magana. “When we’re that high, our first priority is safety.We’re just not in any hurry to challenge weather like this.”
Officials resumed limited operations by 5:30 p.m. and started a push to getas many travelers as possible on their way by midnight. But many travelers wereexpected to have to wait until today to get flights out.
The cloud of dust was estimated to be up to 400 miles long and up to 70 mileswide, stretching from Lubbock to the Metroplex and from Ardmore, Okla., toComanche, said Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’sFort Worth office.
The dust and high winds started to dissipate by late Saturday afternoon, andtoday’s forecast was for clear skies and far more moderate winds from thenorthwest at 10 to 15 mph, Ryan said. The dust storm was caused by a strong lowpressure system in Kansas that triggered high winds there and in Texas, Oklahomaand Nebraska before sliding east and taking the winds with it, he said.
“Today was extraordinary,” said Dan Huckaby, also a NationalWeather Service meteorologist.
The Fort Worth Fire Department dispatched 350 calls by 4 p.m. Saturday, aboutthe same number in eight hours as it normally handles in a 24-hour shift, saidLt. Chuck Sherrill, communications supervisor.
At least 50 percent of those calls were directly related to the high winds,Sherrill said, including reports of trees knocked onto homes and cars, downedand arcing power lines and grass fires. There were also two structure fires that,while not wind-related, were harder to fight because of the wind, Sherrill said.
The wind damaged the construction site for Texas Christian University’s newindoor practice facility just west of Stadium Drive at Bellaire Drive North. Thewind got underneath the sheet metal roof at the nearly completed facility,peeling it back and causing some of the insulation to come off, TCU spokeswomanTracy Syler-Jones said.
Workers secured the roof until the damage can be assessed, Syler-Jones said.It was not yet known whether the wind damage will delay completion of thefacility, which had been scheduled to open within the next two months, she said.
Two Fort Worth high school athletes were injured when they were struck by awind-blown table during a track meet sponsored by O.D. Wyatt High School atClark Stadium.
School district spokeswoman Barbara Griffith said the two girls were runningin a race on the track when a strong gust picked up a first-aid table and blewit onto the athletes.
One Northside High School student was struck on the jaw and had teeth knockedout, while a Southwest High School student was struck on the shoulder, Griffithsaid.
The Northside student was transported by MedStar ambulance to HarrisMethodist Fort Worth hospital, and the Southwest student’s mother took her toHarris Methodist Southwest, Griffith said.
The names, ages and conditions of the injured runners were not immediatelyavailable, Griffith said.
The wind also gave Arlington firefighters extra difficulty handling a fire ata home in the 5100 block of Dufferin Street, and it may have caused two fires inSouthlake, police officials said. An outbuilding caught fire about 12:30 p.m.next to a residence on Florence Road near Pearson Lane. About 3:40 p.m.,firefighters were called to a grass fire east of Kimball Avenue and Texas 114.The blaze was contained at less than an acre. Euless also reported that a smallgrass fire was quickly controlled.
Hundreds of fires were reported statewide, according to the Texas ForestService. The service’s Granbury Regional Fire Coordinator Center sent crews andequipment to help fight a 10-acre grass fire threatening homes in the RiverCountry Acres subdivision in the Twin Canyons area of Hood County, forestservice spokeswoman Traci Weaver said.
After getting the Hood County fire under control about 4 p.m., the Granburyforest service office sent equipment to help fight a 50-acre grass fire aboutfive miles west of President Bush’s Crawford ranch on theBosque-Coryell-McLennan county line, Weaver said.