On the morning of Dec. 13, severe weather sirens wailed out across Grapevine notifying residents of possible tornado activity.

At 8:42 a.m. the first tornado formed near the Mustang Elite Car Wash before crossing Ira E. Woods Avenue and heading northeast toward the Walmart Supercenter, Discount Tire and several other businesses as well as a residential area, according to the National Weather Service. The tornado continued northeast for seven minutes.

Seven minutes after the first tornado began, a brief EF-1 tornado, meaning it was 100 yards in width and had estimated winds of 100 miles per hour, damaged parts of Grapevine Mills and the nearby Terrawood Apartments, the National Weather Service reported.

The second tornado hit a peak wind of 100 mph then dissipated at 8:51 a.m.

The two tornadoes were part of a larger storm system, with the National Weather Service confirming 16 tornadoes across North Texas.

“We are incredibly thankful for the fact that we had only five minor injuries, no loss of life and a community that came together swiftly,” Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate said.

Assessing the damage

In the tornadoes’ wake, over 40 structures were affected by the storm, including significant damage to the city of Grapevine Service Center and Sam’s Club. Other buildings affected were Grapevine Middle School, Waffle Way, Family Tire & Auto, and Extra Space Storage, according to the city’s storm update webpage.

During the storm, an 18-wheeler turned sideways in the parking area between Walmart and Sam’s Club. Separately, Sam’s Club saw extensive roof damage to the building and is temporarily closed. A timeline for reopening is not yet announced.

“We are currently working through the availability of needed supplies and should have a better idea of what a timeline looks for any future details in the coming weeks,” said David Schrag with the Sam’s Club Communications department.

About 95 city employees were displaced after Grapevine’s Service Center was severely damaged. Administrative & Engineering Director Bryan Beck said the center, which is located at 501 Shady Brook Drive, had nearly all of its interior walls damaged or destroyed. Along with the walls, he said there was a large amount of water damage from the rain that came through after the tornado. A majority of the building’s desks, chairs, furniture and computers were also damaged, Beck said.

The service center housed public works employees, such as field staff, the street and traffic signal division, environmental management division and the city’s water utilities division. Beck said the staff members have been moved to different locations across the city to continue working.

“The staff were just amazing,” he said. “They spent an hour or two talking about the storm, and then they got to work.”

Beck said it will take about 12-18 months to rebuild the main facility.

School stays open

Students at Grapevine Middle School were evacuated after the tornadoes came through when a natural gas odor was identified near the exterior of the school’s athletic wing, according to an alert from the district.

Following the tornado, it was later discovered that several heating, ventilation and air conditioning units were damaged, along with broken lights and leaks in the roof. Dove and Cannon elementary schools also had early dismissal on Dec. 13 due to power outages.

During a Jan. 23 board meeting, Brad Schnautz, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD interim superintendent, thanked staff, central administration, and law enforcement and first responders for their assistance after the storm.

“The response of our district personnel and community to assist wherever needed that day was remarkable,” he said.

During a Dec. 19 board meeting, the GCISD board of trustees approved $108,000 of undesignated funds from the 2016 bond to cover damage. The emergency expenditures covered removal of storm debris, the installation of two HVAC units, the replacement of nine lights on the football field and repairs to the roof.

The board of trustees also waived the competitive purchasing requirement for materials. Under the Texas Education Code, a district’s purchase must be made through competitive bidding or proposals. In the event of an emergency or natural disaster, boards are able to delegate to the superintendent or designated person of authority to immediately contract with a company for the repair of equipment and facilities, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Schnautz thanked the board in the January meeting for approving the bond funds and waiving the competitive rules. He said the district was able to get the supplies and equipment “in a very timely manner.”

“We were a little inconvenienced, but we never closed up shop there at [Grapevine Middle School],” Schnautz said.

Being prepared

Although it is less common, the National Weather Service says a tornado can occur at any time of the year.

“December is not one of the more common months we get tornadoes,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Bianca Garcia said. “Typically it is in the spring.”

After a tornado watch is issued and there is a possible tornado, the National Weather Service states to act quickly if a tornado warning is issued.

A warning means a tornado is coming or shortly will be at a predicted location.

Once a warning is issued, the weather service recommends going to a basement or interior room away from windows, following tornado drill procedures, and seeking shelter inside immediately if outside when a tornado is approaching. If inside a car, a person should drive to the nearest shelter, get down in the vehicle and cover their head or abandon their car and seek shelter in a low-lying area, such as a ditch.

Grapevine’s Emergency Management department recommends putting together a disaster supply kit as it may take up to 72 hours to reach those in need. Important items needed are:
  • nonperishable food
  • water
  • first aid supplies
  • medication
  • hygiene items
  • a battery-operated radio
  • flashlights
  • hand tools
  • comfort items
  • pet supplies