A damaging tornado ripped through northwest Dallas and surrounding areas Sunday night, one of at least nine to touch down amid a severe weather outbreak. Stunning before and after photos from satellites have since emerged depicting the tempest’s fury as up to 140 mph winds carved a path 15 miles long.
The photos, from Planet Labs, are sobering, revealing the power and caprice of the voracious vortex. It also illustrates the scale — the major streets align on a roughly one-square-mile grid.
At the bottom of the image below, running west to east, you see Walnut Hill Lane in Preston Hollow.
Above that, you can see a clustering of large buildings within a field. Among these buildings are the Cary Junior High School, Edward H. Cary Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School, below the red track. The satellite reveals heavy damage to the roofs of all the buildings.
On the right, by the high school, you’ll notice several piles of rubble. These were originally modular buildings that succumbed in high-end EF-1 winds. It should be apparent why remaining in a mobile home for a tornado invites the chance of serious injury or death.
From there, the tornado crossed Gooding Drive on the right, passing north of the Walnut Hill Recreation Center and just south of the Episcopal School of Dallas. It kept heading east, leaving a trail of churned-up earth, plywood and a loss of vegetation.
Then the tornado passed Preston Road, west of the red-rimmed stadium you see on the right in the image below, part of the St. Mark’s School of Texas. To the north of the nearby baseball field, the tornado caused significant damage to the white roofs of the Preston Royal strip mall.
The Royal Lane Condominiums, to the left of the strip mall and right of the wide Dallas North Tollway in the center of the image, saw their eastern buildings hit by the tornado, while the western ones escaped relatively unscathed. Of the four pools there, the southern two appear to have been drained of water by the twister.
The tornado then arcs some, curving gently to the right and heading just south of due east before jogging slightly back north again.
That curve is visible from the air, as shown in the image below:
It should be noted that this was all primarily strong EF-1 to moderate EF-2 damage, per the National Weather Service, with winds roughly 100 to 130 mph.
However, the tornado was rated an EF-3. The National Weather Service in Fort Worth surveyed one building that suffered EF-3 damage.
“Within one concentrated region of EF-2 damage along Northaven Road west of US HWY 75, a particular single-family home was surveyed with total roof loss, and multiple collapsed exterior walls,” the agency wrote in its post-storm discussion. “The survey team determined that this damage was consistent with low-end EF-3 intensity winds of approximately 140 mph. This was the only structure that was assigned an EF-3 rating for this tornado.”
We were able to identify this home on satellite imagery. The store you see on the bottom left is North Haven Gardens. Northaven Road cuts just to the south of the home. The second photo shows the house after it was demolished.
Google Earth photos from before the tornado show a well-built home, with a gabled roof.
Sarah Barnes, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, confirmed this was the house. “What we saw was multiple exterior wall collapses. It was a very well-built home,” she said.
“There were thick, heavy beams. The roof was lifted up, and we know there had to be significant force to tear this home apart. We really take into account the quality of the structure [when performing these surveys.]"