Arlington resident William Simmons was watching TV in his living room Tuesday night when he heard loud winds banging on his apartment windows, vibrating the entire home. He heard a loud noise as if “something just ripped.”
Immediately, Simmons jumped up and looked out the front door where he saw debris. His son yelled, “Daddy, daddy,” from upstairs.
“I went upstairs and opened up the door, and all I saw [was] the stars,” he said.
Severe winds had completely torn the roof off the apartment building at The Mirage apartments. His son was hiding under a bed.
National Weather Service Fort Worth issued a tornado warning Tuesday until 9:30 p.m. that included Dallas, Arlington and Irving. Wednesday morning, they confirmed that radars showed a tornado had touched down in Arlington on Tuesday night.
The storm came quickly without warning, Simmons said. Before he even heard the tornado siren warning or received severe weather news alerts, his home was devastated.
A survey crew will determine how strong the tornado was, where it started and where it ended, meteorologist Tom Bradshaw said.
Senior meteorologist Eric Martello said initial damage has been surveyed but the path is not determined yet. Survey teams found EF2 damage in south Arlington near Pioneer Parkway and South Center Street.
Based on preliminary information, the tornado was estimated to have reached max winds of 115 mph. It was estimated to have started at 8:51 p.m. and ended at 8:58 p.m.
It was estimated to travel about 5 miles with a max width of 150 yards and caused 5 injuries, according to a National Weather Service Twitter post Wednesday evening.
Simmons was one of many Arlington residents to suffer property damage from the tornado.
Seven building collapses were reported at multiple locations, including a church, a residential home, three apartment complexes and two commercial locations. Initial reports indicate there are 75 families displaced among residents of the apartment complexes.
I’m here at the Burger Box on South Cooper Street where part of the building collapsed on top of two cars. Arlington Police and Fire Departments are reporting damage across Arlington after a tornado warned storm moved through. @UTAShorthorn pic.twitter.com/UM9c39sMpI— Elias Valverde (@elias_valverde) November 25, 2020
Three people with minor injuries were transported to local hospitals and have since been treated and released, according to a city news release. Arlington firefighters rescued some people from upper floors at the affected apartment complex buildings and from vehicles that were covered by fallen debris at a restaurant drive-thru.
Alan Garcia, a resident at Waterdance apartments, was home with his family, not thinking much of the storm until the doors and windows started rattling.
“Just like that man, everything happened in seconds,” he said.
The most he could do was gather his family and hide in the restroom. Once the storm stopped, they were able to relocate to a relative’s house to spend the night.
Their apartment was ravaged with all their belongings inside.
The American Red Cross is assisting families displaced by damage at the three apartment complexes in east Arlington, according to the city news release. All displaced tenants were relocated to other apartment units.
First responders found a wide range of damage to the affected locations after arrival. Units ensured citizens were safely evacuated from damaged structures.
Wednesday morning, Garcia and several residents came back to survey the damage, shocked at what they saw in the daylight. The storm ripped apart multiple apartment rooftops, pushed over trees and scattered air conditioning units and rubble across parking lots and into the streets.
Multiple locations reported gas leaks and downed power lines. Arlington Fire Department’s dispatch center contacted Atmos Energy and Oncor Electric Delivery to respond where disaster mitigation was necessary.
On Tuesday night, UTA sent out a MavAlert signaling personnel to seek shelter immediately before sending an all-clear message shortly after.
Multiple students sheltered in place in the Central Library’s basement during the warning.
Outdoor warning sirens were turned on and later turned off after the storm rotation diminished, according to tweets from the Arlington Fire Department.
Arlington police and firefighters responded to multiple reports of collapsed buildings in multiple locations on Tuesday night, according to a fire department Twitter post. Units assessed damages, triaged potential patients and moved to other locations.
The Arlington Fire Department and @ArlingtonPD have responded to multiple locations in Arlington with reports of collapsed buildings. Our units are currently assessing the structures, triaging potential patients, and moving to other reported locations. We will keep you updated. pic.twitter.com/mX0r9VnHAY— Arlington Fire Dept. (@ArlingtonTxFire) November 25, 2020
Arlington’s Emergency Operations Center was activated Tuesday night, said Lt. Richard Fegan, Arlington Fire Department public information officer. The police department and fire department are working under a unified command.
Arlington’s Emergency Operations Center was activated Tuesday night, said Lt. Richard Fegan, Arlington Fire Department public information officer. The police department and fire department worked under a unified command.
Calls came in steady at the beginning of the night, but much of the responders focused on five locations: Waterdance Apartments, The Mirage Apartments, Garden Park Apartments, Burger Box and Jesse’s Auto Body.
At Burger Box, a drive-thru awning fell onto a vehicle that was occupied, said Tim Ciesco, Arlington PD media relations coordinator, in an email. The people inside the vehicle were not injured.
Police assisted the fire department with damages in central Arlington including malfunctioning signal lights and various roof collapses on some structures.
This story will be updated as more information is released.
Multimedia editor Elias Valverde II and news reporter David Detrick contributed to this article.