UPDATE: Local trucker has close brush with Texas twister

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Beckie Tomlinson said she might have panicked when she and her husband, Gene, first saw the big, black twister a quarter-mile away about 10 a.m. in Lancaster, Texas.

“I don’t think I had time to freak out,” the Orchards trucker’s wife said Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after the tornado came close but devilishly missed them.

Others were less fortunate. The National Weather Service said there were two “large and extremely dangerous” tornadoes in the area south of Dallas. Local news cameras captured images of truck trailers blown away and homes with no roofs.

It had been a clear but overcast morning.

Gene Tomlinson, 63, spoke of high excitement once someone knocked on a door of their 2006 International tractor and warned them to get inside the big Flying J truck stop.

“It filled the whole sky and, off to the southwest, you could see it coming in,” Gene said. “The first time in 63 years I’ve ever experienced a tornado.

“I thought it was really cool,” he added. “I’d like to experience it again. I wouldn’t mind being one of those storm chasers. It wasn’t scary. It was fun to watch. There was a bunch of us taking pictures.”

“There was this huge, huge cloud and it was absolutely black,” Beckie said. “It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”

The couple went inside and later emerged to see the area torn to pieces. Gene said a company that makes truck trailers lost a number of them to the twister, which he said picked them up, lifted them high in the air and tossed them away.

He said he’d heard of no deaths but some critical injuries.

After missing the Tomlinsons, the tornado bowed wickedly and headed north toward Dallas, leaving thunder and lightning in its wake.

The Tomlinsons said they ride together on 90 percent of journeys. “We do the whole 48,” Gene said.

Next stops: Fort Worth, Texas, and Aurora, Colo.