The De Kalb, Texas Tornado

May 4, 1999

My target was Paris, Texas. Unfortunately, I was delayed due to tornado warnings for Tarrant County. With the possibility of a tornadic thunderstorm moving across my home county (Dallas), I couldn't leave immediately.  However, I noticed that the surface winds had veered to the SSW ahead of the storm. New storms were quickly forming east of Dallas, probably on the wind shift ahead of the dry line.

My original route was up highway 75 to 121, then NE to Paris. I intercepted a storm at McKinney, Texas as it changed from SW updraft/classic configuration to a NE updraft HP. The SW updraft/weak meso occluded, was undercut and replaced by a shelf that curved cyclonically around the eastern flank of the storm, apparently toward a NE flank updraft.

I drove back down 75 to IH635. As I drove south, flags along the roadside were all pointing NNE. Noting this advice on the direction to go, and hearing reports from NWS FTW that the circulation in the Tarrant County storm was weakening, I pointed the car toward IH-30 and my original destination, Paris.

Damage occurred in Mount Pleasant as I drove NE up IH30. I raced to highway 259, then north over gravel for several miles through a highway construction zone while getting intermittent glimpses through the tall pine trees of a dark gray amorphous mass passing to my north. I arrived at the intersection of state highways 259 and 44 less than 10 minutes after the tornado had ripped through De Kalb, Texas.

The damage I saw was F2. Pine trees up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter had been snapped off a few feet above the ground.   Several homes had serious roof and some exterior wall damage. All exterior walls of one home had collapsed, with a few interior walls still standing. The tornado appeared to have taken a hard left turn as it moved into the town center.

The damage in the town center was more serious than I had thought.  I later saw news footage that included upper F2 and perhaps F3 damage to buildings in the downtown section.

I will post stills from video soon.

Copyright 1999 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.

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Last revised: November 29, 2003