Texas communities are picking up the pieces Tuesday morning after suspected tornadoes touched down in the state Monday, leaving dozens of structures damaged, at least 19 hospitalized and thousands without power.
At least 10 people were taken to hospitals in the severe weather in Grayson County, according to the county’s office of emergency management. Meanwhile in Jacksboro, within Jack County, nine people were treated at hospitals.
Over 47,000 customers remain without power as of 8 am Tuesday, with the worst outages in the Houston and the Carson County areas, according to PowerOutage.us.
The storm system that swept through the Lone Star State and left extensive damage is now moving east toward Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, where it may possibly trigger “a regional severe weather outbreak,” according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
As many as 80 homes and businesses in Jack County, west of Dallas, were damaged or destroyed when a possible tornado struck the county and town of Jacksboro shortly after 3 pm, officials said.
The town’s high school and elementary school were also in the storm’s path and damaged.
Harrowing photos of Jacksboro High School show a wall and a part of the roof of the gymnasium ripped off, exposing brick and insulation foam.
At the elementary school, vehicles were overturned outside the building, Jacksboro Police Chief Scott W. Haynes said.
“We’re wounded no one was seriously hurt” in the suspected tornado, he said in a Tuesday morning news conference, noting that kids were safe waiting out the storm inside hallways.
There was also damage in Round Rock, north of Austin, after what city officials said was a tornado.
Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks said that a funnel cloud was seen on the south side of the city and that there was “extreme structural damage” but no known deaths or serious injuries.
Video footage shared on social media from a Walmart at Round Rock shows what appears to be a tornado moving in the parking lot as people frantically sprint inside the store for shelter.
In the Austin region, there were likely tornadoes in Round Rock and the Elgin areas, National Weather Service meteorologist Aaron Treadway said, but those and other suspected tornadoes will have to be confirmed by survey teams.
Tornado watches covered a swath from east of San Antonio to far northwest Louisiana and southwest Arkansas on Monday night, according to the weather service.
About 22 million people were at risk for severe storms Monday across Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, including for possible nocturnal tornadoes that occur after dark, forecasters said.
Nocturnal tornadoes are two and a half times more deadly than their daytime counterparts largely in part to people being asleep and not having a way to get woken up by warnings.
There were 19 tornado reports made in Texas and Oklahoma on Monday to the National Weather Service, but they are unverified and will have to be confirmed by storm survey teams.
One of those was in Marshall County, Oklahoma, where a possible tornado caused a reported quarter-mile swath of damage in the area of Kingston, NBC affiliate KFOR of Oklahoma City reported.
There were no serious injuries immediately reported, but drone video from the station showed smashed and wrecked buildings. The weather service office in Norman said survey teams would be sent Tuesday to evaluate the damage.
Severe weather is expected through the first half of the week. Forecasters are warning about potential tornadoes, electrical storms, softball-sized hail and winds in excess of 60 mph through Wednesday for much of the South and the mid-Atlantic.
On Sunday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center released a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms (a threat level of 4 on a scale of 5) for Tuesday. The last time a threat level this high was issued that far in advance was ahead of the Easter Sunday outbreak April 12, 2020. That outbreak produced 16 EF3 and EF4 tornadoes.
Snow fell Monday afternoon in Colorado and Kansas along the system’s northern side, with forecasts predicting between 4 and 10 inches and whiteout conditions.
Through Tuesday night, 10 million people are at risk for severe storms for what is forecast to be the most dangerous of the three days with a regional tornado outbreak possible. Storms will be ongoing in the morning and continue into the overnight hours.
Cities to watch closely include Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, New Orleans, Jackson, Mississippi, Tuscaloosa and Mobile, Alabama. Several significant tornadoes are possible along with large hail and strong winds, and nocturnal tornadoes are again expected to be a risk Tuesday night.
By Wednesday, the storm system is expected to track east, bringing the risk for all severe hazards once again to 25 million people from northern Florida into much of the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic. Cities to watch midweek include Atlanta, Tallahassee, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina.
In addition to the severe thunderstorms, flash flooding is also a concern across the same regions.
Rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour could amount to locally 6 to 7 inches in some spots. The soil in many areas are already fairly saturated and streams are already running high.
The greatest risk Tuesday and Tuesday night is across eastern Louisiana into central Mississippi and Alabama.
Dual hazards of severe weather and flash flooding can be challenging for meteorologists to communicate, and for the public to react to, because simultaneous tornado and flash flood warnings have contradictory recommendations for what to do in the event when one is issued. For tornadoes, that action is sheltering below ground. For flash flooding, that action is moving to higher ground.
Meteorologists encouraged everyone in the path of the storms to review their severe weather plan, stay alert and listen to experts providing lifesaving information. This includes having a way to get warnings, such as enabling emergency alerts and notifications on smartphones or having a NOAA weather radio.