Tornado Tears Down Texas Department Store Roof

Sudden tornado tore through the southwestern Texas town of Beaumont.

August 18, 2009, 11:05 PM

Aug. 19, 2009 -- An unexpected tornado tore through the southwestern Texas town of Beaumont Tuesday, destroying the roof of a department store, flipping cars and stunning residents.

The storm touched down at around 2 p.m., hitting a local shopping center. Winds topped 110 miles per hour, leaving a trail of destruction half a mile long. Cars were thrown on top of each other, bricks were stripped from exterior wall, and chunks of metal and debris were littered around the parking lot.

The roof of a Kohl's department store collapsed on top of frightened shoppers.

"The roof came off in the corner and the water pipe broke, so about half the store is flooded right now," said resident Sarah Irving.

At least 10 people were treated for minor cuts and scrapes, mostly from flying debris.

"We had a lot of potential for a lot of injuries, and we were just lucky and fortunate," said Lt. Ray Beck of the Beaumont Police Department.

"When you get daytime heating, it often fires up these thunderstorms and a lot of times they can spin these small funnels that occasionally can touch down," Montra Lockwood, from the National Weather Service, explained.

Lockwood told ABC News affiliate KBMT in Beaumont that the tornado skipped past a Wal-Mart before finally hitting the Parkdale Mall shopping area.

Judy Slate was working at a Lowes home improvement store across the highway from Kohl's when the storm hit.

"We were all busy working when power went out," she told The Associated Press. "It was raining really hard and the wind was really blowing."

In the aftermath of the storm, retailers now face a race to clean up and re-open as school starts in Beaumont next week.

Hurricane Bill Moves North; Texas Tornado Surprises Residents, Forecasters

In August, hurricanes are more common than tornadoes.

Hurricane Bill is now a Category 4 storm in the Atlantic, packing 135 mile per hour winds. The storm is expected to move west and then sharply turn toward the north, getting close to the U.S. and Bermuda and causing rough seas in the northeast, but not making landfall, according to computer models.

Meanwhile, Beaumont residents are dealing with the shock of having a surprise twister touch down in their front yards.

Two large pieces of debris landed in the parking lot of the The Pointe apartment complex, landing in front of the entrance.

"When I first got home from work, I noticed my normal parking spot had a roof in the middle of it," Omar Kelly, a resident of a local apartment complex, told KBMT.

Many residents were grateful to have escaped the sudden storm relatively unscathed.

"During Katrina, the house next door to me blew away completely, and nothing happened to my house, so I feel truly blessed that I've been passed over twice," apartment complex resident Janet Ethridge told KBMT.

When the storm hit, shopper Shelley Riley was sitting in her car in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

"What I was seeing, sitting in the car, was all of Kohl's roof coming in the tornado," she said.

Another car landed on her roof, but somehow she made it out without a scratch.

"I wanted a new car for my birthday tomorrow," she said. "Looks like I'm going to get one."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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