Lewisville Director of Neighborhood Services Josh Roberts addressed the Lewisville City Council Monday night with a slideshow to provide the council with more detail about the storm last Wednesday morning and the response since then. Roberts is the city’s emergency manager.

A squall line blew into Lewisville from the west at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 29, causing major damage to some homes and businesses. The next day, the National Weather Service declared that it was an EF-1 tornado, the second lowest rating.

National Weather Service polygon showing the location of a tornado warning issued at 2:13 a.m. on Wednesday, March 29. (Via City of Lewisville)
National Weather Service polygon showing the location of a tornado warning issued at 2:13 a.m. on Wednesday, March 29. (Via City of Lewisville)

The first item that Roberts showed the council was a map showing the area of the tornado warning that had been issued at 2:13 a.m. The area stretched from Haslet and Saginaw in Tarrant County to Flower Mound, west of Lewisville. That warning had been cancelled early at 2:31 a.m. instead of being allowed to expire at 2:45.  (Archived NWS radar shows the storm’s leading edge over the far western edge of Flower Mound around US 377 at the time the warning was lifted.)

Roberts noted the concerns of many Lewisville residents who had taken to social media after the storm because they thought the city should have turned on the outdoor warning sirens. “Simply put, there were no observed conditions meeting criteria for our outdoor warning system siren activation, in advance of the storm impacting Lewisville” Roberts said.

The cancellation of the tornado warning prior to its scheduled expiration time, according to Roberts, was one of the reasons that he chose not to activate the sirens. Referring to his communications at the time with the National Weather Service and broadcast meteorologists on NWSChat, Roberts said there was chatter about the storm weakening. “The meteorologists indicated to us that the storm was diminishing in threat,” Roberts said. NWSChat is a private internet chat service operated by the National Weather Service to connect emergency managers, first responders, radio operators, media, and weather service personnel.

Timeline:
1:59 a.m. – Denton County Skywarn activated
2:13 a.m. – Tornado Warning issued for areas west / southwest of Lewisville until 2:45 a.m.
2:26 a.m. – Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued includes Lewisville until 3:15 a.m.
2:30 a.m. – Radar shows heaviest part of the storm around U.S. 377 in far west Flower Mound.
2:31 a.m. – Tornado warning cancelled
2:30 – 2:45 a.m. – Meteorologists indicate diminished threat
2:36 – 2:45 a.m. – Reported wind gusts of 45, 46, 45-50, and 46.8 mph in areas to the west
2:37 a.m. – Storm related 911 calls begin
2:45 a.m. – Radar shows heaviest part of the storm east of I-35E in Lewisville
3:15 a.m. – 911 calls indicating heavy damage to Sylvan Creek area begin
3:30 a.m. – Area command established

In the timeline that Roberts produced for the council, he showed that wind gusts had been reported in the area to the west of Lewisville at 45, 46, 45-50 and 46.8 mph between 2:36 and 2:45 a.m. Roberts said that the normal warning criteria is 70-75 mph or greater.

“With that said, hindsight is 20/20 obviously,” said Roberts. “Had I or any of the meteorologists known the impact [to] Lewisville… as it was approaching from west to east, certainly they would have continued that tornado warning, and certainly we would have activated our siren system.”

Roberts said that as with any storm, this was an opportunity to go back through the data and see if there were any improvements to be made. He said that he talked with NWS meteorologists afterward, and that they had indicated it was a challenging storm for them to forecast and issue warnings for.

Roberts said that storm related 911 calls began at about 2:37 a.m. but that those initial calls did not pinpoint any specific areas of damage. He said that calls indicating heavy damage to Sylvan Creek area began at about 3:15 a.m. There were no injuries or rescues.

Police and fire rolled through neighborhoods in those early hours, and city crews cleared roadways. He said the city also worked to help return lost pets, canvas neighborhoods, and make facility repairs. Roberts and the emergency management team set up the emergency operations center to coordinate response.

A map shows damaged buildings from last Wednesday's early morning EF-1 tornado. (Via City of Lewisville)
A map shows damaged buildings from last Wednesday’s early morning EF-1 tornado. (Via City of Lewisville)

Once it was daylight, crews assessed the damage and learned that 31 structures had major damage, 84 had minor damage, and 229 total structures were affected in four major pockets: Fox/Sylvan Creek area, Oakridge/Hedgerow, Chinaberry/Daffodil and around Valley Parkway and College St. Those two northern neighborhoods had been pelted by large hail on the Sunday before.

Mobile city hall “MARTY” was deployed on Wednesday and Thursday to impacted areas to allow residents or contractors to register for permits and ask questions of city staff.

Roberts showed the council a map showing special garbage collection areas for storm-related debris. Waste Management, the city’s garbage hauling contractor will pick up storm debris piled on front curbs using its grappling arm trucks so that residents do not have to haul the debris to the alley for their normal pickup. The special collection is each day through April 14.

Roberts commended fellow city staff as well as residents for their handling of the situation so far. “I’m sure you have heard, I have heard and I have certainly seen neighbor helping neighbor – pull debris to the right of way, help clean up their property – etcetera,” Roberts said. “This is one of the many reasons why we love Lewisville.”

Roberts did stress the need for residents to have multiple ways of receiving emergency warnings of storms.

Stay tuned to The Lewisville Texan Journal for more information about how to get notifications in case of severe weather.

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