Severe storm hits TX

A severe storm struck here at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, laying waste to 48 trailer homes.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | VENUS, TEXAS | April 24, 2003

A severe storm struck here at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, laying waste to 48 trailer homes, seriously injuring two people and leaving more than a hundred people homeless, according to Cpl. Pam Jetsel, spokeswoman for the Johnson County Sheriff's Department.

The most severe storm damage occurred near the town of Venus, near the southern suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Teams from the National Weather Service determined Thursday that damage reported in Venus and other areas of north and west Texas was caused by powerful straight-line winds, not a tornado, said NWS meteorologist Alan Moller in Fort Worth. Moller said there was a credible report of "well-developed funnel cloud" near Alvarado (a few miles from Venus), but investigators would not know until Friday if this cloud was actually a tornado.

Moller described the "intense downburst" that hit Venus as "a very rare event." While "that doesn't sound as romantic as a tornado," he said, in this case these straight-line winds proved just as destructive.

"The damage is pretty terrific down there," Moller said. "It's a little astounding to me that no one was killed. We were very fortunate."

The American Red Cross set up a base Wednesday night at the Venus Civic Center, and workers from The Salvation Army and the First Baptist Church of Joshua were also on the scene helping victims, said the Rev. John Campione of the Thompson Baptist Church in Alvarado. Campione said some relief workers were using his church as a base of operations.

The Homesteads, the mobile home community affected by the storm, lies just outside of Venus, Campione said.

The town of Venus itself "is like two blocks long," Jetsel said. "It's basically just a town square. It's teeny tiny."

Anita Foster, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said her workers were feeding survivors and relief workers Thursday. She did not expect any of the people left homeless by the storm to use the Civic Center as a shelter.

Foster said she was not aware of any storm damage in Texas besides what occurred in Venus.

"There were some pretty brutal storms last night," she said, " but as far as we know this is the only area that's sustained any damage."

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