A fast-moving storm blew through North Texas on Thursday afternoon, leaving thousands without electricity and causing structure fires, downed trees and the collapse of a building in the heart of the Stockyards.
The University of Texas at Arlington had only partial power Thursday night, and officials canceled Friday classes, as did all schools in the Arlington Independent School District and the University of North Texas Dallas campus.
More than 185,000 customers were still without power as of Friday morning, mostly in Dallas, according to electricity provider Oncor.
On Thursday evening, Steve Murrin, known as the mayor of the Stockyards, walked in the rubble of Stockyards Lodge No. 1244, a vacant building next to chef Tim Love’s Stockyards establishments.
One wall of the former Masonic Lodge, built in 1910, collapsed about 4 p.m. in winds gusting to 75 mph.
Bricks from the entire back of the building fell onto vehicles and the ground around The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, The Love Shack and the White Elephant Saloon — all owned by Love.
“It’s life in the Stockyards,” Murrin said as he shook his head.
Murrin, who sold the building to the Stockyards Lodge Trust, to which he has ties, said he showed up when Love called him.
All of Love’s employees were sent home, and several will have to make insurance claims for thousands of dollars in damage to their vehicles, said Lt. David Childs, a Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman.
No one was injured when the wall collapsed, Childs said, and the surrounding restaurants were not damaged.
It was unclear Thursday night when the restaurants would reopen. North Main Street was closed because of concern about the stability of the wall of the lodge facing the street.
Juan Ortiz, Fort Worth’s emergency management coordinator, said the wall was the only reported structural collapse.
Firefighters quick to act
At the height of the storm, the Fort Worth Fire Department dealt with eight structure fires, a large number of calls about transformers smoking and one high-water rescue in the northbound lane at 1093 South Freeway.
One firefighter was injured, but he did not require medical attention, Ortiz said.
The Fire Department stopped taking non emergency calls about 4:30 p.m.
From 3:30 to about 8 p.m., Fort Worth police responded to 160 calls related to stranded vehicles, traffic hazards, minor and major accidents, and high water, Ortiz said.
As of late Thursday evening, 17 crews were working on traffic lights affected by the storms, most in the southeastern part of the city, Ortiz said. The crews will work throughout the night.
At the peak of the storm, 45,000 residents were without power in Fort Worth, and 110,000 in Tarrant County, Ortiz said. Across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, about 250,000 Oncor customers were without power at 10 p.m.
“Our main area of concern is to ensure we can reopen the main arteries of the city,” Ortiz said.
Areas with large trees blocking roadways will get top priority for cleanup.
“Straight-line wind damage can be as destructive, if not more destructive, than lower-end tornadoes,” said Lamont Bain, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.
The roof was blown off a building at Arlington Baptist College on West Division Street, injuring one person, said Lt. Lee Tovar, an Arlington Fire Department spokesman.
Several units were damaged at the Woodland West Apartments, 2601 Lynnwood Drive, and the wall of one unit fell at the Arbors of Arlington apartments, 1010 E. Arkansas Lane, Tovar said. No injuries were reported.
Damage from fallen trees was reported throughout the city.
“It took most of my sweet gum tree down in my front yard,” said Sarah Rabb, who lives on Woodbine Street in northwest Arlington.
All after-school activities and the Arlington school district’s 7 p.m. board meeting were canceled.
Though some on social media said part of the roof blew off at Arlington High School, district spokeswoman Leslie Johnston said that was not the case.
The big issue Thursday wasn’t the rain — the official total at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport was only 0.32 inch. It was the straight-line winds, Bain said.
“There has been no evidence presented to us that there’s been a tornado, but just because you don’t have a tornado doesn’t mean your damage isn’t going to be severe,” he said.
Storms began to develop shortly before 2 p.m. when a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for most of North Texas.
The storms developed near Jack, Wise and Parker counties before moving east.
Sixty departing flights were canceled at DFW Airport, and roughly that many incoming flights were diverted to other cities until the storms passed, airport spokesman David Magana said.
No rain is in the weekend forecast. But lower temperatures will settle into North Texas.
The high on Friday should be in the lower 80s, dropping to a low near 50.
The fall weather may last just a few days. Sunny skies and south winds will warm up the area, and temperatures could be back in the 90s next week.