Storm causes pileup on Interstate 35E
Suspected tornado flips vehicles, blocks traffic; several injuries reported
Severe thunderstorms containing a suspected tornado raked across Ellis County on Monday night, resulting in damage and contributing to a major accident on Interstate 35E south of Waxahachie.
At least three tractor-trailers were overturned on I-35E near Johnson Road at about 8:50 p.m. Television footage from storm chasers showed the big rigs in the southbound lanes having pushed the center barrier into the northbound lanes, with one overturned trailer completely blocking the northbound lanes. Some cars were able to bypass the wreck by driving onto the grassy shoulder.
Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Sara Warren said a preliminary investigation shows there were two trucks and a van effected on the southbound side and one truck effected on the northbound side.
The two trucks on the southbound side were pushed into the center barrier and the van had been pushed into one of the trucks but was able to regain control and drive to the shoulder of the roadway. The truck on the northbound side was pushed off the roadway and into a field. There were no hazardous materials released.
First responders from the Forreston Fire Department and Emergency Services District No. 6 were shown rescuing a driver from one truck using the Jaws of Life. Warren said all three CMV drivers sustained injuries with only one sustaining serious injuries. They were transported by ambulance to Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Waxahachie. The driver and passenger of the van were not injured.
Several passenger vehicles were also flipped over in the area and power lines were reported down as the storm crossed the interstate highway. One house was reported damaged and trees were down in the Forreston area.
The interstate was fully reopened in both directions before 6 a.m.
Shortly after the initial storm, a second storm moved in from the west with torrential rain, hail, and winds of about 60 mph. The storms finally moved east and out of the county at about 11 p.m.
Elsewhere in the county, reports were received of marble-sized hail in Midlothian and pea- to dime-sized hail in Waxahachie.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Ellis County at about 8:30 p.m. as a long-track supercell with rotation moved east out of Johnson County. The same cell produced a funnel cloud near Blum in Hill County that was captured by several photographers.
The NWS will survey the damage in the coming days to determine if a tornado was the cause, and if so, to determine the strength and track of the twister.
Tornadic events are not uncommon in North Texas, and Monday’s storm was the third to hit Ellis County in about 2½ years.
On Oct. 20, 2019, a tornado touched down in Midlothian, destroying a church near U.S. Highway 67 and causing less severe damage elsewhere. Almost exactly a year before that, an EF-0 tornado caused damage at the then-brand-new Waxahachie High School, causing broken windows, downing fences and overturning the WHS band’s box truck.