Residents of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area will remember April 3, 2012 as a day that left many scared, but also feeling somewhat lucky.
A total of 13 tornadoes touched down in the region with three causing significant damage to hundreds of structures and property, but, miraculously, resulted in no loss of life and few injuries.
The tornado outbreak, which caused planes to be grounded for hours, was not uncharacteristic of the usual Texas tornado season, which is typically at its strongest in April. However, many early season tornadoes like those in Henryville, Ind., present a threat of a particularly violent tornado season ahead.
While many of the tornadoes affected open land, a few caused significant damage in suburban neighborhoods. According to WFAA-TV, a CNN affiliate based in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, in the town of Forney, nearly 100 homes were damaged and one-third were completely destroyed in the path of an EF-3 tornado.
In the Diamond Creek Estates, a subdivision in Forney, a grandmother saved her own life as well as those of three children she was babysitting by taking shelter in a bathtub -- a situation reminiscent of Springfield's heroic mother Angelica Guerrero, who died while saving the lives of her children in last June's tornadoes in Springfield.
In Forney and other towns across the region, the Red Cross teamed up with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Salvation Army to hand out blankets, meals, and other relief supplies to hundreds of survivors. The Red Cross reported over 150 people seeking assistance in temporary shelters across the region Tuesday.
Observers and officials have noted that compared to many of the other tornadoes that have struck communities across the country this spring, the Dallas-Ft. Worth storms were relatively tame, resulting in slightly fewer injuries and no deaths. Citing advanced notice and cautious preparation as well as the time of day, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez told USA Today that "it might have been different if it hit at 7 or 8 o'clock at night. It hit when a lot of people were at work, and the warnings were there."
WFAA-TV also reported that both a declaration of disaster and a visit by Gov. Rick Perry helped to accelerate the response and recovery process. The total dollar amount of damage has not been released, though is estimated to number in the millions.
FEMA has activated a regional Incident Management Assistance Team and will assist state and local authorities if needed and requested. It is not clear whether the state has made such a request.
A number of agencies in addition to the Red Cross are offering relief assistance and accepting donations. More information can be found by clicking here.
About the authors
Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.