More than 129,000 homes and businesses were in the dark across Texas, Arkansas and Missouri on Wednesday and a tornado watch was in effect across much of Florida as a severe weather line wreaked havoc in much of the South.
In Texas, at least one tornado on Tuesday night ripped through rooftops east of Houston, knocking down utility poles and power lines and flipping cars, trucks and even a train. No serious injuries were immediately reported.
The weather threat targeted the Atlantic coast on Wednesday: the I-95 corridor from northern Florida to southern Virginia was most at risk. The biggest threat will be wind gusts of up to hurricane force 75 mph, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
A tornado watch was issued for parts of Florida on Wednesday morning after the National Weather Service in Tallahassee reported a confirmed tornado near Belair and Four Points, Florida moving northeast.
“A line of strong and severe thunderstorms will progress eastward … into and through this watch area,” National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Edwards warned.
The Weather Service warned Wednesday that a line of thunderstorms would move east along North Carolina and South Carolina.
“Isolated destructive gusts of wind and a few tornadoes are possible with these storms,” the weather service said.
The storms are moving ahead of a cold front rolling south through north-central North Carolina. The weather service warned that while the main dangers are isolated damaging winds, a few tornadoes are possible if the storms continue to strengthen.
Tuesday’s tornado that hit southeast Houston caused at least EF2 damage, the National Weather Service station in Houston reported Wednesday. According to the National Weather Service, EF2 tornado damage is characterized by ripped roofs off frame homes, leveled mobile homes, and large broken or uprooted trees.
More than 16,000 people remained without power statewide as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to tracking site PowerOutage.us.
‘Extremely Dangerous’ Tornado Hits Texas
The Weather Service at one point warned Tuesday that a “large, extremely dangerous and potentially deadly tornado” was on the ground heading towards Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston. Street flooding was a chronic problem throughout the region.
The National Weather Service said it was sending a team to survey damage and confirm tornado strength in parts of southeast Texas. The American Red Cross said it was opening a shelter for residents of Pasadena, a city of 150,000 about 15 miles east of Houston.
In Pasadena, the animal shelter lost power, water, and telephones, so the shelter and adoption center were closed.
“Please help! The Pasadena Animal Shelter was hit by a tornado today! We are in desperate need of foster families etc,” the agency tweeted. “Please, please share and if you can hold a dog or 5 (garage, spare room, whatever) PLEASE help!”
The shelter then published a social media update that other shelters and rescue organizations had taken most of the animals. “We assure you that the animals we have left are being cared for as we work to get them into foster homes and other organisations.”
Train explodes in Deer Park
In the Houston suburb of Deer Park, a tornado and damaging winds were blamed for blowing over a train. Dozens of buildings in the city suffered major damage and dozens of roads were closed due to fallen trees or power lines.
The school district posted a note on Facebook saying that many homes and businesses had been damaged and that all of its buildings and some neighborhoods had no power. After “mature consideration”, classes were canceled for Wednesday.
“We hope this will give families a chance to recover from the stress of today’s events, and we believe it is best for children to be with their parents or guardians after a natural disaster,” the message reads. He added that the cancellation will allow staff to determine the extent of damage to their own buildings.
City officials are urging residents to stay off the roads as workers attempt to repair downed power lines. Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton Jr. said he was surprised no injuries were reported.
“We will take care of the property and recover and rebuild,” he said.
Heavy snowfall in Arkansas; schools closed in michigan
The storm system was also bring snow and ice to much of the central United States More than a dozen school systems closed when snow blew across Michigan. Chimes, Arkansas received 12 inches of snow Tuesday and 10 inches were reported across the Texas Panhandle in the town of Matador. Parts of Arkansas were paralyzed by heavy, wet snow on Tuesday. Schools and businesses were closed across Oklahoma, where snow totals of up to 6 inches were reported.
Contributor: The Associated Press