Possibly a dozen tornadoes rumbled across the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area Tuesday, leveling homes and tossing big-rigs around like toy trucks. North Texans scrambled for cover as warning sirens blared throughout the afternoon.
"Twelve is a preliminary number," said Steve Fano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. "We won't know for sure until tomorrow when we can get out and assess the damage."
Some injuries, but no confirmed fatalities, were reported. Homes and businesses in at least seven counties were hit hard.
"These weren't small tornadoes," Fano said.
By evening, the most severe storms were moving into Arkansas and Louisiana.
In Forney, a bedroom community 22 miles east of Dallas, officials were inspecting an elementary school that sustained damage. Officials said no students were harmed, but homes around the school were flattened.
"Oh no! Oh no!" a storm spotter witnessing the Forney tornado screamed live on Dallas's CBS 11 TV. "Oh my goodness. I can see the homes just being torn apart."
At the height of the storms, the National Weather Service declared Dallas-Fort Worth counties to be under a "tornado emergency." Sirens blared in downtown Dallas and Fort Worth, schools huddled children in hallways and passengers at DFW International Airport were rushed to safe areas.
Stay-at-home mom Jean Kelly saw the madness unfold from the 19th floor of her high-rise apartment in downtown Dallas. "Today, I heard the thunder first. Then, I heard the sound that no one, especially not a new parent, wants to hear: the tornado siren," she wrote in a first-hand account for the Yahoo Contributor Network.
Click image to see more photos (Reuters)
Some of the most impressive photos showed several tractor-trailer trucks toppled and ripped apart.
"It's one of the worst tornado outbreaks we've seen in a longtime here in North Texas," said Larry Mowry, meteorologist at CBS 11.
Amateur images of the twisters flooded social media, including baseball player Mike Napoli's video of a funnel cloud passing over the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The first tornado touched down 20 miles southwest of Fort Worth as many workers were returning from lunch. From there, it seemed like watches and warnings started coming from all directions.
"What a hopeless feeling," Ryan Enos wrote in a first-person account for the Yahoo Contributor Network. "I just sat there as the storm inched closer and closer on the screen. It passed directly over where we live."
Mayors of a few North Texas towns declared their cities to be local disaster areas.
As nightfall approached, scores of homeowners cleaned up what they could. Some scoured damaged neighborhoods for family photos and other personal items. Others were reportedly looking for missing pets. The American Red Cross was dispatched to the hardest hit areas and were seeking volunteers to help dispense aid.