Aftermath of North Texas tornado: A mangled mess of metal, roofing and insulation

Fernando Cristan walked Sunday afternoon up and down around what used to be Distinguished Customs, a restoration and modification shop. Now it’s a pile of rubble and classic cars behind the Shell gas station on Lone Oak Road in Valley View.

Cristan was working on two Corvettes there. He points them out, one black and one a faded yellow.

“Those are two ‘63 Corvettes I was working on,” he says. “They were being restored and modified. They would have been worth half a million each.”

Now they’re buried under metal beams and roofing and insulation and plywood after a tornado ripped through Valley View and Cooke County on Saturday, killing at least seven and injuring dozens more.

While the building is collapsed, or in some places just gone, an office set up remains with desks and rolling chairs seemingly unmoved even as the walls and roof were torn away.

Restoration and modification shop Distinguished Customs is a pile of rubble on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas, after a tornado hit the area.
Restoration and modification shop Distinguished Customs is a pile of rubble on Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas, after a tornado hit the area.

As Cristan walked back down what used to be the side wall of the shop, the wind moved disjointed bars and sheet metal, filling the area with a cacophony of screeching, moaning metal.

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The gas station next to the body shop is another mess of debris. Around 50 cars and trucks and SUVs remain under ruined awnings and in parking spots and buried under semi trailers and pieces of the building. Four semitrucks are there, one turned on its side and another with its trailer wrapped seemingly improbably around a pole supporting what was the cover over a set of gas pumps.

An estimated 60 to 80 people were injured when the storm destroyed the AP Travel Center, the Cooke County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.

The parking lot smelled of a smokey, sickly bitter odor. Water pooled on the parking lot, with gasoline and oil floating on top.

Next to the gas station, RVs are torn apart, upside down or on their sides. Part of one was thrown across the road by the tornado.

It was joined on the other side of Lone Oak Road by metal roofing, plywood, insulation, tires, car parts, poles and garbage that have become stuck in or warped around a metal fence, parts of which are missing.

Farther down the fence into a field, a jackhammer rattles as crews worked in the sweltering midday sun to dig up slanted and splintered and utility poles. Lines from those are caught in that same fence and strewn across the open land, where more debris was left and trees uprooted.

One ruined, dark crossover car lays in the middle of that field, near a small pond filled with parts of buildings and vehicles and RVs carried there by the storm.