Tornado watch issued as storm system that spawned deadly tornadoes in Texas and Louisiana moves east



The storm system that spawned deadly tornadoes across Texas and Louisiana this week will continue to push east Wednesday, leaving a large swath of the country under the threat of more severe weather.

More than 65 million people from central Florida to southern Michigan and east to the Virginia coast are under a slight risk for severe weather Wednesday, including the possibility of large hail, gusty winds and tornadoes, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Cities in the threat area include Columbus, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Savannah, Georgia; and Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro in North Carolina.

The system already cut a path of destruction in Texas, where 25 tornadoes touched down 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 risk for tornadoes Wednesday is in the Florida panhandle, southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas, Shackelford said. There’s also an increased chance for damaging winds and hail across eastern Indiana and central Ohio.

More than 3 million people in Alabama and the Florida panhandle are under a tornado watch until 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, including those in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida. Wind gusts up to 70 mph and quarter size hail are possible.

The system racked up more than 175 storm reports in a 48-hour period, Shackelford said. It also brought widespread rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches across parts of the South, with some areas of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama seeing 4 to 8 inches.

As forecasters track the system’s eastward movement, crews in the New Orleans area are assessing the damage left behind.

The Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans east were hit by a tornado just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell said, and rescue crews were digging through the destruction overnight.

One person was killed in the Arabi neighborhood of St. Bernard Parish, parish President Guy McInnis told CNN.

“We have some homes that were leveled. We have homes that were lifted up and put back down on the street,” McInnis said of his community, which borders Orleans Parish, home to New Orleans’ iconic French Quarter.

“The area that I’ve seen tonight, it’s totally devastated in a few of our neighborhoods,” McInnis told CNN’s Don Lemon.

McInnis said he didn’t yet have a firm number on injuries but there are reports of several residents seeking treatment.

“We’ve got a long night ahead of us and a long road to recovery, but I feel confident that we will get everything done here quickly for our citizens,” McInnis said.

There were not yet any reports of casualties or significant damage in Orleans Parish, Cantrell said Tuesday night. New Orleans Police, Fire and EMS departments were staging to assist in St. Bernard Parish, she added.

“Residents should avoid all travel that isn’t essential, to provide an opportunity for the professionals to handle this situation,” Cantrell said in the statement.

A car lies overturned among debris in the Arabi neighborhood after a large tornado struck near New Orleans Tuesday.

The storm system menaced Texas Monday with at least 25 tornadoes reported across the state, which was already dealing with dozens of active wildfires.

Two tornadoes in Williamson County, near Austin, cut a path of damage 20 miles long, according to the county’s top executive. “We believe there is somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand homes that have been damaged or completely destroyed,” County Judge Bill Gravell said at a news conference.

“I think we’re going to be absolutely amazed by the sheer number of homes that have been wrecked,” state Rep. Terry Wilson said.

In Jack County – northwest of the Fort Worth area – 60 to 80 homes were destroyed, local officials said. The National Weather Service determined a tornado there was an EF-3, with winds between 140 and 150 mph.

“Many of our homes have been totally demolished and families have been removed from their places of residence,” Jack County Judge Keith Umphress said.

Several homes were badly damaged as severe storms ripped through Jacksboro, Texas, Monday.

It was a miracle more people weren’t injured – especially at Jacksboro Elementary School, which was sheltering a large number of students as a storm badly damaged the gymnasium, Jacksboro Fire Chief Jeremy Jennings said.

The children were about to be released for the day when officials decided to have everyone go back inside, Jacksboro Police Chief Scott Haynes said.

The gym at Jacksboro High School was also badly damaged and the facilities will be unusable “for some time,” Jennings said.

“We’re just very blessed to have facilities that were designed to sustain a storm, the storm damage that we received,” Jacksboro Independent School District Superintendent Brad Burnett told CNN affiliate WFAA.