Texas hit by severe storms and tornadoes reported as storm system heads east

There have been 17 reports of tornadoes across Texas and Oklahoma, CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford said. Nearly 65,000 customers were without power in Texas early Tuesday, mostly in the Houston area, according to PowerOutage.US.

Five million people from east Texas to northwest Louisiana and southwest Arkansas remained under a tornado watch through Tuesday morning, Shackelford said, adding that more than 800,000 people in the Austin area were under a flash flood warning.

The severe weather line hit as the state was already dealing with more than 170 wildfires over the past week that had burned more than 108,000 acres, fire officials said.

In Jacksboro, about 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth, Fire Chief Jeremy Jennings said it was a miracle more people weren’t injured, especially at Jacksboro Elementary School, which housed a large number of students as a storm rolled through and left its gymnasium. badly damaged.

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.

“We’re just very lucky to have facilities built to withstand a storm, the damage that we’ve taken,” said Jacksboro Independent School District Superintendent Brad Burnett. Affiliated with CNN WFAA. “I just know our students were safe in our facilities and I’m grateful for that.”

Burnett said elementary students became “quite emotional” when they left school and saw the damage caused by the storm.

Officials in Jack County, where Jacksboro is located, said 60 to 80 homes had been “demolished” and shelter had been set up for displaced families.

“I’ve been in the emergency services for 24 years here, I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude here,” said Jennings, the fire chief. “No such thing, not even anywhere else in this county.”

Further south in the Austin area, multiple state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of Public Safety, are responding to storm damage in Williamson and Bastrop counties. , Governor Gregg Abbott said.

An emergency declaration was already in effect in Williamson County due to the recent fires and will also apply to storm damage, Abbott said.

“As we speak right now, I want everyone across the state who is going through this to know that the State of Texas will be with you every step of the way,” the governor said.

Arturo Ortega and his 2-year-old son Kaysen Ortega survey the damage to a shopping mall after a reported tornado touched down in Round Rock, Texas on Monday.

A reported tornado moved through Round Rock in Williamson County around 6 p.m., authorities said.

Numerous homes, businesses and city-owned buildings sustained significant damage, Police Chief Allen Banks said, but only minor injuries were reported.

Emergency responders were still assessing the damage to determine the specific number of buildings affected, Banks said.

Round Rock is about 15 miles north of Austin.

No injuries after a violent storm caused
The storm also brought widespread rainfall of 1 to 2 inches, with some areas reaching up to 5 inches, which should help combat drought conditions in the region, Shackelford said.

A flash flood warning was issued early Tuesday for parts of central Texas, including southern Austin. Up to three inches of rain had already fallen in the area and another three inches of rain is possible, forecasters said.

“Flash flooding is underway or expected to begin shortly,” according to the National Weather Service in Austin, which noted the warning is in effect until 3:45 a.m.

Life-threatening flash flooding of creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses are possible, the warning said.

Abbott encouraged residents of storm-damaged areas to wait until morning to fully assess their property because doing so at night could be dangerous.

Millions of people remain under threat from severe weather

As the storm system moves east Tuesday, about 20 million people in the lower Mississippi Valley and central Gulf Coast region will be under threat from severe weather, Shackelford said, including large tornadoes, damaging winds and hail.

Major cities in the storm’s path are Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana, and Jackson and Gulfport in Mississippi, as well as Houston, Memphis and Birmingham, Alabama.

About 17 million people from Texas to Alabama and north to Arkansas and Tennessee are under surveillance as of Tuesday, Shackelford added.

The system will weaken as it continues to move eastward on Wednesday, bringing a slight risk of severe weather to areas such as Atlanta and Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina.

CNN’s Taylor Romine, Joe Sutton and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.