Ellis County

Ellis County Tornado Victims Had 37-Minute Warning

Warning issued long before EF-2 twister allowed people to take shelter

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Patrick Koopman says he and his family had plenty of warning a tornado was headed right for their house south of Waxahachie Monday night.

"My phone was going off: 'Take shelter, take shelter!'" he said. "They said it could form any second because it was there, and it did."

An EF-2 tornado, with winds of 120 miles an hour, was heading straight for the Koopman’s rural home.

"I walked outside the back door and heard this sound. I'll never forget it,” he recalled Tuesday. “It's kind of like, almost like a stampede coming, it started getting louder and louder, and I thought, 'Oh crap.'"

He ran inside and yelled at his wife and daughter.

"It lasted about 15 to 20 seconds but it seemed like a long time,” he said.

They grabbed their three dogs and took cover.

"Afterwards you hear all this water pouring in and you're like, 'Oh noooo.'"

The roof was ripped off. Their home was gone.

"Time to rebuild,” Koopman said.

But they managed to walk away.

According to a timeline released by the National Weather Service, the first tornado warning was issued at 8:07 p.m.

That was 37 minutes before the twister touched down.

A minute later, a second warning was issued.

The tornado finally lifted at 8:57 p.m.

"Almost 40 minutes in advance is amazing to have a warning out,” said Jennifer Dunn, warning coordinator for the National Weather Service. It's a true testament to the reports that were coming in as we were tracking these super cellular and tornadic storms through the area."

She also credited technology like advanced radar and forecasters’ expertise.

"They nailed it right on the head,” Koopman said.

The Ellis County tornado left a path of destruction five miles long.

One of the worst hit neighborhoods was off Highway 77 south of Waxahachie,

A dozen homes were destroyed and 17 others damaged.

But thanks to early warnings, people had time to take cover.

"It's life or death,” Koopman said.

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