Texas Tornadoes Were Costliest in State History
The Insurance Council of Texas estimates that the nine tornadoes that hit the Dallas area on Oct. 20 caused about $2 billion in insured losses. The group says the estimate is “pretty conservative,” but it makes the tornado outbreak the costliest in state history. It exceeds the $1.2 billion in insured losses caused by a Dec. 26, 2015, tornado that killed 10 people in the eastern Dallas suburbs. The strongest of the tornadoes was an EF3 twister with peak winds of 140 mph and was on the ground for more than 15 miles, according to the National Weather Service. The other Texas tornadoes had wind speeds ranging from 80 mph to 135 mph.
Meanwhile, a Dallas television station apologized in a statement to viewers after airing a football game — rather than severe weather coverage — as a powerful tornado tore through the city. Folks who turned on Channel 5 — (NBC Dallas-Fort Worth) — shortly after 9:00 p.m. did not see informative weather maps or urgent pleas to seek shelter. Instead, a tense game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles flashed across the screen. There were no meteorologists, no radar plots, and little indication that a 140 mph EF-3 funnel had been churning through northwest Dallas since 8:58 p.m.
It wasn’t until 9:06 p.m. that the station preempted the football broadcast to deliver a “weather alert.” This was eight minutes after the twister touched down, six minutes after a warning was issued, and two minutes after the National Weather Service described it as a “particularly dangerous” and “life-threatening” situation, in which “flying debris may be deadly.” The weather bulletin lasted only 62 seconds. The tornado, which, at that point, had carried debris to a height of more than 20,000 feet, lasted 32 minutes.
The backlash to the TV station’s choice to limit tornado coverage was swift. “Pushing people to an app or website is inexcusable when they have a broadcast signal,” wrote one Twitter user. “A game isn’t more important than people’s safety and lives,” tweeted another.