The National Weather Service is reporting a tornado did in fact touch down 4 miles east-northeast of Waxahachie on Tuesday afternoon, based on a media video.
It was unclear what size the tornado as of press time, because National Weather Service damage surveyors did not visit the county Wednesday to determine what happened. As of 2 p.m., the survey team was in the Mineral Wells area, investigating tornado damage from an EF-1 twister, and not much damage was reported in Ellis County, despite sightings of two different funnel clouds.
Local law enforcement dispatchers received numerous calls of funnel cloud sightings at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The National Weather Service of Fort Worth could not confirm any reports of a tornado touchdown at the time, but a representative did confirm tornadic activity in the storm system and a tornado warning was issued until 3:45 p.m. This was the third time parts of Ellis County have faced tornado-warned storms within the past four weeks, and the warning was sudden said some residents. On May 10, rotation, straight-line winds and flash flooding, caused damage to several homes in southern Ellis County.
"We had a thunderstorm that developed southwest of Waxahachie and basically we had moderately strong updrafts from the surface level up to cloud level and the shear was strong enough to create rotation," said meteorologist Jesse Moore with the National Weather Service of Fort Worth. "As (the storm) moved from the southwest toward the northeast, the rotation strengthened, which is why we issued the tornado warning."
The rotation created funnel clouds that moved northeast from southern Waxahachie toward Palmer and Ferris. Funnel clouds were reported near Palmer and Reagor Springs.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a rotating column of air can form a funnel cloud, but is not classified as a tornado until it touches the ground.
Waxahachie resident Josh Elsom said he believes the funnel cloud did become a tornado, and he caught it on video, making a memorable moment between father and son.
“I'd been living in Texas most of my life and I've never seen a tornado,” Josh said. “Been through plenty of tornado warnings and hid in the bathroom plenty of times to take cover, so that was kind of the motivation for that.”
Josh had just left Marvin Elementary with his son Noah, and as they drove through the downtown square, the emergency alert went off on his phone, he said. He looked around, and the skies were overcast and light in color, but when he came to a gap between buildings in the square, he saw what he thought was the tornado. So, he and his son decided to turn down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, toward Parks School House Road, to follow the storm. When he and Noah reached passed Parks School House Road, that’s when they saw it — a funnel cloud in a field, looking east toward Ennis about a mile and a half to two miles from them. He said they were far enough away to feel safe from the storm.
“It was pretty neat. I’m pretty much into watching the weather. We don’t have cable in the house, but if we did, I’d watch The Weather Channel all the time,” he said.
Sharing his father’s excitement, Noah can be seen in the video saying, “Oh yeah, look at it now,” and photos from Josh show Noah standing in front of the cloud formation. Josh said Noah shares the excitement he has for the weather, adding they’ve started calling thunderstorms by a different name — fun-derstorms.
“Every time there’s a storm, we have a tradition where we’ll pop popcorn and put M&Ms in the pop corn and just kind of watch the weather,” Josh said. “We have a porch swing on the front porch and we just sit out there and watch it roll through.”
So when his wife called to ask where he and Noah were after school, she wasn’t too surprised to hear they had chased the storm, Josh said, emphasizing the storm was moving in the opposite direction and they were safe.
As the storm passed over, Waxahachie and Red Oak Independent School Districts delayed bus transportation for students until the storm passed for safety precautions. Yet, at least one WISD bus was on the road. The WISD bus driver for bus 59 evacuated the vehicle, and helped students remain calm and take cover under a tree.
“Special thank you to the bus driver on bus 59 of Waxahachie ISD’s Cliff Elementary and Waxahachie PD,” stated Mandy Castellano Rangel on the Waxahachie Daily Light Facebook page. “Both of my babies were on the bus while the tornado was near, I was so worried that I did not know where they were at. The bus driver got the children off the bus and took cover around a tree while they waited for the police to arrive. She comforted them and helped them to keep calm. Thank y’all for taking care of my babies while there was nothing that I could do to protect them.”
Stephanie Parker, Ellis County Emergency Management coordinator, confirmed reports of funnel cloud sightings, and the storm caused roof damage to a home on Omaha Court and shifted a barn's walls on Pigg Road.
No injuries were reported because of the funnel clouds. A 40-50 percent chance for thunderstorms exists through Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
For immediate weather updates or local storm coverage about Ellis County, visit www.waxahachietx.com and www.facebook.com/waxahachiedailylight.