The tornado skipped northeast across Kennedale, crossing Interstate 20 into a residential neighborhood near Arlington Martin High School.
John Smith watched it from his third-floor balcony, videotaping the tornado as it touched down and rose back up, zeroing in on a church school at St. Barnabas United Methodist Church, where his girlfriend and young son were inside. (Photo above, by Tim Madigan)
“It came right down here and shingles started flying in the air,” Smith said. “It got to within a couple of hundred yards of us, and I went back inside.”
At the church, Amy Richardson, director of the Early Education Center, was alerted to the approaching storm and shepherded 82 children, ranging from toddlers to 5-year-olds, from their classrooms to a safer spot in the interior of their building.
“We knew what we had to do. We had a plan for it,” Richardson said. “We just waited. We had pastors coming in to tell us when to duck and cover.
“There was a loud rumbling noise, the walls starting shaking and windows started breaking. But the kids were very calm. Some of them got upset when the power went out.”
Water began to pour into their sanctuary, because the tornado had ripped away the roof in another part of the building. But the children were safe.
“Our plan worked,” Richardson said. “It’s nice to have a plan.”
Just across Pleasant Ridge Road from the church, Ben Blackshear and his wife, Pamela, surveyed their home, which had been more or less destroyed. Pamela Blackshear had been home, on the telephone with her daughter, until just before the tornado hit.
“It was quiet. There was no wind,” Pamela Blackshear said. “Then it went right over us.
It sounded like a really strong whistle. It was hard to hear because the sirens were going off at the same time, and the dogs were barking.
“We just laid on the floor. Then we heard glass shattering, and the roof came off the house.”
When he got home, her husband found their roof across the road near the church.
“I put my blood sweat and tears into this house,” Ben Blackshear said. “I remodeled everything. It took me 15 years, and it was gone in 15 seconds. Oh my god.”
The tornado seemed to zero in on Dauphine Court, a quiet cul-de-sac less than a half mile away. Heather Schulz lives at the end of the street and, on Tuesday, was at home with her 5-year-old daughter, Hannah.
The mother tracked the storm on television as it barreled in her direction from Kennedale. She put Hannah in a bathtub and looked out her front window.
“I saw it coming at us from the end of the street,” Schulz said. “It looked like just a bunch of wind circling. I expected it to veer off in another direction, but it didn’t.
That’s when I jumped into the tub on top of Hannah and our little Yorkie. We were just praying. You could hear the cracking, popping.”
Hannah bit her thumb until it bled as the storm passed over. In less than a minute there was silence.
Schulz’s home sustained minor damage, shingles ripped off and mature trees snapped in two.
But several other houses on the street were mostly destroyed. In one place, Schulz said, a neighbor and her child took shelter in a front bathroom, while a back bathroom in the same home crumbled.
-- Tim Madigan