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Lynn Lunsford Publication Date: May 6, 1995 Page: 1A Section: NEWS Edition: HOME FINAL Torrential rains, winds up to 70 mph and hail as big as grapefruits blasted North Texas on Friday night, causing at least four deaths, hundreds of injuries and widespread property destruction. Hail and rain began falling about 6 p.m., blanketing streets and flooding areas from Weatherford to Dallas. Air, street and electronic traffic was snarled, disrupting 911 service in some areas and stranding motorists and airline passengers. Two people were confirmed dead and 12 injured after the roof reportedly collapsed at the Haggar Apparel Manufacturing office on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, officials said. "All of a sudden you heard a boom, and people started screaming, `Let me out, let me out!' " said Haggar employee Angel Solis. Irving Hospital officials reported that David Kinimer, a 16-year-old Irving resident, was fatally injured when he was struck by lightning. An unidentified motorist was confirmed dead early Saturday in northeast Dallas. The woman was pulled from her car and put in another, only to drown there when waters rose further, rescuers said. Elsewhere, authorities were performing high-water rescues on numerous streets; they were also investigating several reports of people being trapped under collapsed roofs or swept away in rushing water. At least three and as many as six people were swept away in a storm drain on Ervay Street just south of downtown, Dallas police said. They were missing and feared dead, an officer said. They apparently had been stuck in cars in high water and tried to get out when waters pulled them toward a manhole with a cover that had come off.
At Mrs Baird's bakery, the 26th-largest private firm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the roof collapsed and the building caught fire. Firefighters said they had brought the blaze under control early Saturday. General manager Bill Baird said the roof collapsed about 10 p.m. at the height of the storm in Dallas. He speculated that the weight of water on the roof prompted the collapse. He did not know how the fire started. He said the damaged part of the building was used for shipping and storage. He said all workers in the building at the time got out safely. Officials with WeatherData in Kansas said unofficial reports showed 4.76 inches of rain fell in 35 minutes in Grand Prairie and 5.2 inches in Fort Worth. Meteorologist Tom Cate said that the storm was "the biggest outbreak we've seen this year" of all the many storms to rake the Dallas area. Thousands of visitors to Fort Worth's annual Mayfest were caught in the storm, with more than 200 reported injured by hail. Late Friday, hospitals around that city were scrambling to treat all the victims. Some of the injured ended up at Harris Methodist-Fort Worth, only to have hail strike there and knock out windows. Jennifer Melton, 16, was one of almost 30 people who was taken to that hospital aboard a Fort Worth Transportation Authority bus. She raised the back of her shirt to reveal a mass of blackening bruises that she said she suffered while "huddling up in a little ball out in the middle of the road." "It got so bad that finally the important thing was just to keep from getting your skull bashed in." TU Electric spokeswoman Patsy Miller said that at least 84,000 homes were without power Friday night. Fort Worth public information officer Pat Svacina said that all city departments were put on emergency standby at 8:30 p.m. Friday after the storm ripped through the city's heart. Mr. Svacina said that skylights at the downtown Fort Worth City
Hall were knocked out and rain had washed into the third floor of the building. He also said that there were reports of hail and heavy rain causing roofs to collapse on buildings, including a nursing home at 1001 W. Broadway. Other examples of the storm's fury: * At Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, about 25 people undergoing treatment in the emergency room had to be evacuated after rainwater came under the doors about 9:30 p.m., said a hospital official. Patients were moved to the second floor. * Willow Park in Parker County had to cancel its final three horse races. Live races on Saturday were deemed questionable. * In Deep Ellum, the Angry Dog tavern on Commerce Street closed about 8:30 p.m. because of water damage. * In Dallas, parts of the downtown police headquarters were beginning to flood. And at 10:20 p.m., police said they had 201 calls they could not answer. Officials put the department on "emergency status, sending officers only on calls involving injuries and life-threatening emergencies." * Joe Dealey, a spokesman at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, said there were a number of flight delays, diversions and some cancellations. He said the airport lost power to a flight tower in the height of the storm, but air traffic controllers went to a back-up system. * Southwest Airlines reported many delays throughout the evening at Love Field. Flight 83 from Dallas to Oklahoma City was placed under a hangar with passengers on board because of the heavy hail that was coming toward the airport. Along area highways, drivers caught in the middle of the storm did their best to take cover. Ron Surratt, a 44-year-old driver, was probably among the few along Interstate 30 who enjoyed the storm. His passenger, a 4,000-pound hippopotamus en route to the San Diego Zoo from Knoxville, Tenn., liked getting wet. The 13-year-old mammal sat in a wood and steel crate on a parked flatbed truck while Mr. Surratt took cover in a Denny's restaurant and enjoyed dinner.
"When you're carrying live animals you've got to take good care of them," he said. "He's loving it. He loves to be in water." At Market Center Boulevard and Interstate 35E in Dallas, the underpass was flooded with more than a dozen cars stranded. Holly Whitcomb said she was with a group of six other people traveling from out of town with a national pharmacy convention in Dallas when their taxi stalled out under the highway. They spent nearly an hour stranded at the underpass. "I'm from Seattle," Ms. Whitcomb said. "And this kind of thing does not happen there." Near the Wyndham Anatole Hotel off I-35, the streets around the hotel were under several feet of water. Guests trying to get to the hotel were stranded when their cars or cabs were stalled in the roadway. At one point about eight guests stranded under a nearby underpass formed a human chain to cross water that sometimes reached to their waist to return to the hotel. Even before Friday night, this spring had already been one of the most hellish in memory for hailstorms. Fifteen times since March 25, hail had been reported in North Texas. Several of the storms tagged major cities or suburbs, damaging thousands of cars and about 100 airplanes. Jerry Johns, president of the Southwestern Insurance Information Service in Austin, called Dallas the "hail capital of Texas" in an interview earlier this week. It may even be the hail capital of the nation this year, he said. Friday night, he urged residents with damage to call their insurers immediately. "And that includes tomorrow (Saturday), because volume from the previous storms and this one is just going to overwhelm insurance companies." The most expensive local hailstorm on record occurred in spring 1992, when the Arlington area was pounded for about $760 million in insured losses. Larry Maifeld, a hydro meteorological technician for the
National Weather Service in Fort Worth, said the same sort of storm that pummeled the area Friday could strike Saturday and Sunday. Mostly cloudy skies with a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms are expected to continue through Sunday. "There's a chance of it again tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday; the same stuff. In fact, there were reports of unconfirmed tornadoes, so we may find out later about those, in Parker County and western Tarrant County." Staff writers Toni Edwards, Peggy Evans, Anna Macias, Nora Lopez, Jason Sickles, Aline McKenzie, Sherry Jacobson, Todd Bensman, Robert Ingrassia, James Ragland, Clay Morton, Harry Stern and Mike Maza contributed to this report.