More than 65 million people from central Florida to southern Michigan and east of the Virginia coast are at slight risk of severe weather Wednesday, including the possibility of large hail, gusty winds and tornadoes, said CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
Cities in the endangered area include Columbus, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Savannah, Georgia; and Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro in North Carolina.
The system has already opened a path of destruction in Texas, where 25 tornadoes touched down on Monday, including two that damaged about 1,000 homes in Williamson County near Austin, officials said. A 73-year-old woman was killed in Grayson County, north of Dallas, when her home was destroyed in the storm, local officials said.
On Tuesday, a deadly tornado tore through the New Orleans area, killing at least one person, officials said. Widespread destruction was reported in the area.
The greatest tornado risk on Wednesday is in Florida, southeast Georgia and the Carolinas, Shackelford said. There is also an increased risk of damaging winds and hail in eastern Indiana and central Ohio.
The system accumulated more than 175 storm reports over a 48-hour period, Shackelford said. It also brought widespread rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches to parts of the south, with parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama seeing 4 to 8 inches.
Deadly tornado tears through New Orleans area
As forecasters track the system’s eastward movement, crews in the New Orleans area assess the damage left behind.
The Lower Ninth Ward and eastern New Orleans were hit by a tornado just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell said, and rescue crews were digging into the destruction overnight .
One person was killed in the Arabi neighborhood of St. Bernard Parish, Parish President Guy McInnis told CNN.
“We have homes that have been razed to the ground. We have homes that have been lifted up and put back on the street,” McInnis said of his community, which borders the parish of Orleans, home to the iconic French Quarter of New Orleans.
“The area I saw tonight is totally devastated in a couple of our neighborhoods,” McInnis told CNN’s Don Lemon.
McInnis said he doesn’t have a firm injury figure yet, but there are reports of several residents seeking treatment.
“We have a long night ahead of us and a long road to recovery, but I’m confident we’ll do everything quickly here for our citizens,” McInnis said.
There have been no reports of casualties or significant damage yet in Orleans Parish, Cantrell said Tuesday evening. The New Orleans police, fire and EMS departments have organized to help St. Bernard Parish, she added.
“Residents should avoid all non-essential travel, to allow professionals an opportunity to manage this situation,” Cantrell said in the statement.
Dozens of tornadoes hit Texas
Two tornadoes in Williamson County near Austin caused damage 20 miles long, according to the county’s top executive. “We believe there are a thousand homes somewhere in the neighborhood that have been damaged or completely destroyed,” County Judge Bill Gravell said at a press conference.
“I think we’re going to be absolutely amazed by the number of homes that have been destroyed,” said state Rep. Terry Wilson.
In Jack County — northwest of the Fort Worth area — 60 to 80 homes were destroyed, local officials said. The National Weather Service determined one tornado to be an EF-3, with winds between 140 and 150 mph.
“Many of our homes have been totally demolished and families have been evicted from their homes,” Jack County Judge Keith Umphress said.
It was a miracle that more people weren’t injured – especially at Jacksboro Elementary School, which was home to large numbers of students as a storm severely damaged the gymnasium, the fire chief said of Jacksboro, Jeremy Jennings.
The children were about to be released for the day when authorities decided to let everyone inside, Jacksboro Police Chief Scott Haynes said.
The Jacksboro High School gymnasium was also badly damaged and the facilities will be out of service “for quite some time,” Jennings said.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Chris Boyette, Holly Yan and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.