Texas tornadoes: Why no fatalities after a dozen tornadoes? (+video)
Texas tornadoes: An estimated 650 homes were destroyed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but no one died. One reason: Daylight tornadoes are often less deadly.
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Sixth-grader Hailey Pellerin said she and other students had just started lunch when teachers quickly herded students back to their classrooms in their southwest Arlington elementary school.Skip to next paragraph
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"We had to duck and cover for two hours," she said. The students were seated, lined up against a wall in their classrooms and covered their heads. "The power went out so it was dark and hot."
The tornado passed about 200 yards (180 meters) from the school, her father David Pellerin said.
"We were so lucky because it came so close but passed by the two schools my kids attend," said Pellerin, the father of three.
The National Weather Service is now testing a new tornado warning system – using stronger language and more graphic details about the potential effects. While the test was not used in Texas Tuesday, it is being tested in Kansas and Missouri. The National Weather Service is also trying to increase the amount of warning time before a tornado reaches an area.
US TORNADO SEASON STARTS EARLY
Some 110 planes were damaged by hail and 400 flights canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the eighth busiest in the world, stranding thousands of passengers. Another 40 incoming flights were diverted.
During the height of the storm, witnesses at the airport said the sky turned dark and passengers were herded away from windows and into stairwells and restrooms.
The U.S. tornado season has started early this year. Tornadoes have been blamed for 57 deaths so far in 2012 in the Midwest and South, raising concerns that this year would be a repeat of 2011, the deadliest year in nearly a century for the unpredictable storms.
In 2011, there were 550 tornado deaths, including 316 lives lost on April 27 in five southern states, and a massive tornado that killed 161 people in Joplin, Missouri, on May 22.
Tuesday's tornadoes in Texas could prove more costly than a hailstorm nearly a year ago in the Dallas area that caused more than $100 million in insured losses. That April 15, 2011, storm was less damaging in terms of hail and winds.
Insurers have already lost as much as $2 billion during the 2012 tornado season, mostly from a record March 2 outbreak. That follows record-breaking losses of $26 billion during the 2011 tornado season. (Additional reporting by Jon Nielsen, Marice Richter, Corrie MacLaggan, James Kelleher, Kyle Peterson, Ben Berkowitz and Karen Jacobs; Writing by Andrew Stern and Greg McCune; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)