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Al Key - DRC

Cleanup continues; officials warn of scam artists

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Staff reports

Damaging winds wreak havoc in county

Officials are warning residents to beware of scam artists.

Several residents reported that roofing contractors descended quickly on their neighborhoods to offer their services.

On David Simpson's block, a roofer came through between the first and second storm. His elderly neighbor came out to warn him as he arrived home after the second storm that people were already coming through. His wife told him that she had stepped out to look at the clouds as the second storm approached.

"And the guy was standing there at the storm door," Simpson said. Police arrived at Amos Magliocco's neighborhood not long after a crew began climbing on his roof. "I couldn't get them to come down," Magliocco said, adding that he wasn't the one to call police. But he did call the company, whose dispatcher said they'd been sent to work on the house to the east. "I pointed them to the right house, but then they went on the roof of the house to the west," Magliocco said. "It could just be a mistake, but it was fishy."

By the time police left, the crew was on the right roof, he said.


Friday morning

Denton County residents began clean-up of their battered homes, businesses and vehicles Friday, a day after a series of fast-moving storms sent high winds, baseball-size hail and possible tornadoes throughout the area.

Residents began picking up broken limbs, replacing broken glass in their homes and assessing damage to roofs and other structures.

Debris remained scattered across the area as emergency coordinators began fanning out to assess the damage.

“It’s hard to put cost assessments together when you hail damage,” said Jody Gonzalez, Denton County’s emergency management director.

Local emergency officials were out early Friday to see just how much Thursday’s stormy weather was going to cost the county to fix.

The county saw more the one round of wind, rain, hail and several unconfirmed reports of tornadoes on the ground Thursday evening. The fast-moving storms were fairly quick but brutal in their assault resulting damaged trees, rooftops, gutters, numerous shattered car windows at least one tanker fire and more.

Jody Gonzalez, Denton County’s emergency management director, said his office was waiting on the national weather service to conduct a field assessment to see if damages were the result of straight line winds or rotation, a few factors that will be a part of Gonzalez’s own damage assessment.

At Day's Hardware on West University Drive in Denton, assistant manager Jeff Kubicek said early Friday morning his store had sold about $100 worth of glass for window and some plastic wrap to people who wanted to patch up car windows.

“It’s still kind of early yet,” he said.


Late Thursday

At least four possible tornadoes were reported Thursday in Denton County as fast-moving storms with damaging winds and baseball-size hail cut a swath through the north and central portions of the county.

The tornadoes were not confirmed, but police officers spotted what they believed was a tornado at Interstate 35 and U.S. Highway 380. Another funnel cloud was reported just west of downtown Denton, although it was not on the ground, and another was reported in the 200 block of West Collins Street just south of downtown. A tornado was confirmed in Collin County near McKinney.

Officials from the Denton County Sheriff’s Office said there was a reported touchdown of a tornado in Krum. One wind gust at Denton Enterprise Airport was reported at 82 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy rains dumped three-fourths of an inch in an hour during the second wave of storms, prompting a brief flash flood warning for the county that extended until 9 p.m. By 8 p.m., 1.01 inches had fallen at the Denton airport.

Hail as large as baseballs in some areas pummeled much of the northern half of the county, shattering windows, damaging vehicles and roofs on homes and businesses, and forcing some businesses to close their doors. Many residents took shelter as a wave of storms moved through central Denton after 5 p.m. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters from Sanger and Krum battled a gas well tank fire during the first storm after lightning struck the structure, according to Jody Gonzalez, Denton County’s emergency management director.

Damage was also reported on Mitchell and Jackson roads west of Krum from high winds, where several barn roofs were blown off, according to Krum Fire Chief Ken Swindle.

Swindle said in addition to brief power outages, they had received several reports of cars hit throughout the town by golf ball-size hail.


Power outages, cleanup

Nearly 2,000 customers were without power at one point or another throughout the early evening. Denton Municipal Electric reported 1,400 customers were affected by an early wave of storms that moved through the northern portion of the county, but crews were able to repair the outage by 4:30 p.m., according to spokesman Brian Daskam.

A later wave of storms caused four additional outages, knocking out power to 316 customers, Daskam said. In addition, a utility pole that fell on Carroll Boulevard, according to city spokeswoman Lindsey Baker.

CoServ reported outages for about 180 members in Krum and another 245 members in northern Denton.

City crews were dispatched to start cleaning up debris before the sun went down Thursday night, with most of the work expected along University Drive and in central Denton, Baker said.


University, school damage

The relentless hail left fields of white at Texas Woman’s University, where damage was reported at Blagg-Huey Library, Stark and Guinn Halls and Lowry Woods.

The TWU campus was on lockdown at one point, but the lockdown was lifted in the early evening. The TWU campus had about five minutes of heavy hail in the first wave of storms, according to Amanda Simpson, a spokeswoman for the university.

At the University of North Texas, 14 students in West Hall were moved out of six rooms into other available rooms because of a roof leak, officials said. Photos shared on social media also showed downed telephone poles and signage in UNT parking lots near West Hall, and metal poles on top of a car near Victory Hall.

UNT spokesman Buddy Price said workers were checking buildings into the evening Thursday.

At Strickland Middle School in northern Denton, the school’s parking lot looked “like a war zone,” with heavy damage to vehicles, according to witnesses.

In a message Thursday night, Denton school district spokeswoman Sharon Cox, said staff had been called in to check schools and other facilities.

“At this time, no major damage reported,” she wrote.

Elaine Schad, principal at Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton, wrote in an e-mail that most students were traveling home as hail entered Denton around 3:30 p.m.

“Our one-act play was practicing in the gym, so we pulled them and everyone else into the severe-weather protected areas of the school,” she wrote. “Quite a few vehicles were hail-damaged, but no apparent major damage.”

A message sent out by the Aubrey school district around 7:40 p.m. Thursday reported that track students were “currently safe and sheltered” and that they would remain in a safe place until the storm passed.


Local damages assessed

Denton Fire Department officials reported severe hail damage at Station No. 5 on Windsor Drive. Several employee vehicles were damaged and bay windows were shattered at the station.

The roof looked as if “someone used a baseball bat,” one official said.

At the Walmart at Rayzor Ranch Marketplace, skylights were damaged, forcing officials to close the store to clean up the water, according to company spokeswoman Dianna Gee.

At the Abbey Underground on the downtown Square, employees, customers and passers-by went down into the basement when the storm began to bring high winds, said Will Kniffen, a bar employee.

About 20 people gathered in the basement until the storm cleared out.

“It was a little tense, but I think everybody felt OK down there in the basement,” he said.

None of the downtown buildings appeared to sustain damage, but a few outdoor tables from Jupiter House were carried away by the winds, Kniffen said.

Retired journalist Keith Shelton, who lives near Texas Woman’s University, said his home was hit with hail as large as 2 1/4 inches in diameter.

“It didn’t last very long but the yard was covered with what looked like baseballs,” he said. “It sounded like someone was beating on the roof with a sledgehammer.”


Waves of storms

Storms began pushing into Denton County by mid-afternoon, and a tornado warning was issued for Denton County shortly before 6 p.m. as a wall cloud pushed through the city. A cloud with rotation was spotted just west of the downtown area and a wall cloud was spotted near Cross Roads at U.S. Highway 380.

Tornado sirens sounded throughout Denton and residents were advised to take shelter.

The fast-moving, rotating supercell thunderstorm grazed the north side of Denton about 4 p.m. with high winds and reports of hail as large as baseballs falling about 2 miles north of the city, according to the National Weather Service.

The second wave moved through about 6 p.m.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jesse Moore said hail the size of pingpong balls was reported along north Loop 288 and at Texas Woman’s University. Larger hail, from golf ball- to egg-size, also was reported in northeast Denton.

Resident Jennifer McAlister had just dropped her daughter off at the Denton Natatorium for swim team practice when the weather sirens went off. Then she saw the clouds beginning to swirl.

“The lifeguards came out and said, ‘Get in, get in,’” she said.

McAlister and the other swim team parents and students, about 50 people, sheltered in the ladies’ locker room as the sirens sounded for about half an hour.

“You could hear the storm pounding outside,” she said.

They waited another half-hour before venturing out to go home.


Stretching resources

In the midst of the storms, firefighters responded to a blaze near Sanger.

Denton County Fire Marshal Marc Dodd said at 5:38 p.m. Thursday a tanker battery caught on fire because of a possible lightning strike near Pruitt Road just outside of Sanger. Because of the danger of the fire, it was allowed to burn out.

Dodd said there have been no reported injuries. Since it’s just the beginning of the storm season, Dodd encourages everyone to get a weather radio if they haven’t already purchased one.

“We are here to save lives and the county dispatch was slammed with weather inquires,” he said. “People need to not call 911 for weather updates. It’s a drain to the system and we need to be able to respond to life and property concerns.”

Not everyone suffered damage, however.

Bartonville resident Lynda Mathis said that when she left the office to go home, the sky and clouds to the west looked green. It reminded her of the way the sky looked when the tornado hit downtown Fort Worth in 2000.

Once in her car, she heard the tornado warnings and expected the worst. She took a different way home, going due east and then north.

“I felt like I was racing to get home before I got hit,” Mathis said.

She made it, she said. She was hit only by a few big, fat rain drops.

Staff writers Jenna Duncan, Megan Gray, John D. Harden, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, Bj Lewis and Britney Tabor contributed to this report.