Dallas — Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for 16 counties after severe overnight storms including a tornado that battered parts of Dallas. His declaration Monday makes state resources available to local officials, plus waives certain regulations to allow utilities to bring in out-of-state resources.
"By issuing this declaration, Texas is providing local officials with the resources they need to quickly respond and recover from this storm," said Governor Abbott. "My heart goes out to the Texans impacted by this severe weather, and the people of Texas can rest assured that the state will do everything it can to assist those affected by these horrific storms."
Meanwhile, crews searched Monday through the rubble of buildings torn apart by the tornado that ripped through Dallas, causing damage to homes and businesses and knocking out electricity to tens of thousands of people. Radar confirmed the tornado hit the ground near Love Field Airport and moved northeast through the city around 9 p.m. Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Godwin.
There were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries early Monday, according to a release from the city of Dallas, but Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans says three people were hospitalized for evaluation of non-life-threatening injuries.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said Dallas was very fortunate there was no loss of life.
CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reported significant damage to a Home Depot store, with video showing the front of the store a twisted mess of crumpled metal. Major roadways through Dallas were littered with debris from the storm, leaving a major clean-up operation for work crews to tackle with just hours before Monday morning rush hour.
Dustin and Lauren Collins said Monday that they consider themselves lucky that all they need to do is clear debris from their yard after the twister ripped through the area Sunday night. The couple took shelter in the bathroom with their 8-month-old son after he saw the tornado warning on his phone. Lauren said they "just sat in the bathtub and sang songs, trying to keep everyone calm."
Dallas Stars player Tyler Seguin says his home was heavily damaged by the severe storms that swept through the area. The hockey player said on Twitter that he had moved to another home and that the property damaged late Sunday was listed for sale. He wrote: "I just left the area and it is an extremely sad sight to see."
The storms also caused damage in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri as the system moved to the northeast early Monday. Power was out at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill, about 155 miles northwest of Little Rock. The airport says flights were still departing, though security screenings were being done manually.
Tornado warnings were in effect Monday morning in far eastern Arkansas near the Mississippi River as the storm system moved to the east. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says areas of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee could see severe thunderstorms later Monday.
In Texas, heavy damage was reported in northwest Dallas and Richardson. Nearly 140,000 electric customers were without power as of 4 a.m. Monday, according to Oncor's online outage map. The electric utility said storms across East Texas had caused significant damage to power lines.
Around 65,000 of the affected electric customers were within Dallas, according to the city, which said it would open a shelter.
Crews searched through homes and businesses that were accessible for about six hours overnight, but were hampered by "limited access and lack of proper lighting," Evans said. A second set of teams were to resume search efforts in daylight.
Seven people escaped a structure that collapsed in northwest Dallas, but Dallas Fire-Rescue were searching to see if anyone was left inside, Evans said. WFAA-TV reported that a convenience store collapsed in the storm, but the clerk told the station that everyone who was inside made it out safely.
Evans said the department had also received multiple calls from people injured in their homes by broken glass.
On Twitter, Dallas Fire-Rescue said one of its own stations sustained significant damage during the storms overnight, and included photos that appeared to show a collapsed roof and debris. Evans said none of the firefighters at Station 41 were hurt, but said the roof was torn off by the high winds.
A radio station, KNON-FM, went off the air as the studio suffered major damage from the tornado. Lew Morris, one of the hosts of "Reckless Rock Radio" told The Associated Press in a Facebook message that the power at the station went out first, followed by the "distinctive whistle" of a tornado within three minutes.
"We then heard the building shaking and could hear the glass windows shattering everywhere along with debris banging around. We waited until all the noise died down," Morris told the AP. "We walked out to see the studio he was just broadcasting from destroyed."
Godwin, the meteorologist, said the size and severity of the tornado won't be known until crews arrive to survey the damage. NWS warning coordination meteorologist Jennifer Dunn told the AP there may have been two or more tornadoes in north Texas, but reiterated that the extent wouldn't be known until later Monday afternoon.
North of Dallas, the city of Richardson said in a release that many roads "used by thousands of morning commuters" will be closed while workers clear debris and repair downed traffic lights.
The city of Sachse, a northeast suburb of Dallas, said in a release that six houses were damaged from the storms, but no injuries were reported.
Citing extensive damage to campuses, the Dallas Independent School District canceled Monday classes at six schools.
In parts of southern Missouri, the severe weather toppled trees and power lines, damaging some homes and outbuildings. The weather service said crews were headed out Monday morning to determine whether straight line winds or small tornadoes caused the damage.