Texas tornadoes: 296 American Airlines flights canceled Friday

Texas tornadoes: American Airlines is still recovering from the tornadoes earlier this week. Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared three counties disaster areas in the wake of the tornadoes.

(AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo)
Mechanics with SkyWest Airlines inspect for hail damage on one of their airplanes at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after tornadoes moved through the area earlier this week. American Airlines said the storms forced the cancellation of nearly 300 flights Friday.

American Airlines has canceled another 296 flights as it works to replace or repair dozens of planes grounded in North Texas because of hail damage.

Spokeswoman Andrea Huguely says the cancellations on Friday affect flights in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The planes were caught in storms Tuesday that pounded the airport  with hail, damaging 108 aircraft. The storms also spawned about a dozen tornadoes in North Texas.

Since the storms hit, American and its American Eagle affiliate have canceled about 1,600 flights, but with fewer cancellations each day. Huguely says only 27 cancellations are planned for Saturday as American gradually returns to normal operations. American and Eagle are owned by Fort Worth-based AMR Corp.

IN PICTURES: Extreme Weather 2012

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday toured a town ravaged by storms that set off more than a dozen twisters in North Texas, and he lauded local first responders for preventing more serious damage.

Ten people were injured in Lancaster, south of Dallas, and hundreds of homes and other buildings were damaged when a tornado hit the town Tuesday. But no one was reported killed in the storms that blanketed the Dallas-Fort Worth area with twisters, thunderstorms and hail.

"Witnessing this type of disaster always brings just starkly to your mind how quickly these events can occur," said Perry, flanked by local officials in front of a nearly destroyed home in Lancaster.

While many people lost their homes and belongings that might never be replaced, "we do need to thank the Lord that it could have been worse," Perry said.

"The reason it wasn't worse, I will suggest to you, is because of these local first responders," he said.

The governor toured Lancaster first by helicopter and later met with local officials.

Perry issued a disaster declaration for Dallas, Tarrant and Kaufman counties and suggested the state would ask for federal help. Spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said a damage assessment still was under way and would determine what state officials would request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other federal agencies. Nashed said she didn't know when the assessment would be completed. A FEMA spokesman said the agency had not yet received any requests for assistance.

Perry and state emergency management chief Nim Kidd both said the quick response in Lancaster prevented a much larger disaster.

"This response was flawless," Kidd said. "I can't think of another thing we should ask them to do next time."

About 150 homes in the city are considered uninhabitable, according to Jose Luis Torres, a Dallas city spokesman assisting Lancaster. Authorities are still going through neighborhoods to check for damage and don't have an estimate yet on the total cost of the storm, Torres said. Officials have re-opened city streets to residents looking to gather belongings from their homes.

Authorities also continue to assess damage in Arlington, west of Dallas, where a tornado bore down on a nursing home and damaged hundreds of homes, city spokeswoman Rebecca Rodriguez said.

The National Weather Service has confirmed 14 tornadoes in Dallas-Fort Worth. Twisters that hit Arlington and Lancaster each caused damage that suggested they were EF2 tornadoes, with wind speeds up to 135 mph. A tornado that leveled homes in Forney is believed to have been an EF3, with wind speeds as high as 165 mph.

Tornadoes can range from EF0, the weakest, to EF5, the strongest. An EF2 or higher is considered a significant tornado.

IN PICTURES: Extreme Weather 2012

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