RESIDENTS clear debris in aftermath of quick-hitting storm

Saturday, May 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANSFIELD, Texas (AP) _ Cindy Smith's dream of a destructive tornado made for interesting dinnertime conversation with her friend, Randi Kennedy. Half an hour later, the women got a lesson in the real thing.

A quick and forceful storm battered a small section of this city just south of Fort Worth late Friday. Daylight produced a scene of battered homes and shattered glass. The Kennedy family's RV and boat storage business received a heavy dose of damage.

``I'll listen better when you talk about tornadoes next time,'' Kennedy told Smith.

On Saturday, Smith stepped over sheets of metal crumpled on the ground like wads of paper. A row of toppled recreational trailers rested together on their sides.

Nearby, residents scrambled to repair houses as heavy clouds threatened more severe weather.

The storm struck southeastern Tarrant County and southwestern Dallas County late Friday, dumping up to 2 inches of rain in some locations, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

High winds caused also caused damage in Grand Prairie and Arlington.

Radar showed rotation within the thunderstorm that moved through Mansfield, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jesse Moore. The weather service had yet to confirm Saturday whether the funnel touched ground.

No injuries were reported. As much as half a million dollars in damage was done just to buildings at Kennedy RV and Boat Storage, one of the owners said. Smith, who works there, donned gloves to clean up.

``We'll pick up the pieces,'' she said.

Many of the boats and RVs were carried across an open field, smashing into the homes of residents.

``All in the back of my home, the windows are out. Water's coming in. It's a mess,'' said Janice Uhles, who watched loads of debris trucked away from her yard. A work crew spent the early morning boarding up her back windows.

The back fence she had shared with a row of neighbors simply disappeared.

The night before, the sound of the wind shattering her windows aroused her from bed.

``I was petrified,'' she said. ``I didn't know what was going on.''

Neither did neighbor Francisco Aponte, who thought at first that his wife and children were just having a good time.

``I heard a lot of noise, and I thought they were watching a movie or something,'' he said. ``When the windows blew in, it woke me up. I felt glass on my arms.''

He found his family taking refuge in a bathroom.

``They were the first ones in,'' he said with a smile. ``I was the last one.''

He later received a startling illustration of the storm's intensity, finding a metal pipe from a someone's trampoline imbedded into his car.

Meanwhile, repairs were mostly temporary.

``We're not going to be able to fix it all today,'' Aponte said.

For many residents and business owners, the focus was on getting holes patched before the next rain came.

``It ain't pretty, but it won't leak,'' a roofer shouted as he drove away from one job.