Editor’s Note: Having connection issues? Bookmark CNN’s lite site for fast connectivity.
A storm system that on Monday brought 25 tornadoes to Texas, including two that may have damaged about 1,000 homes, was spawning more twisters Tuesday as it pushed east.
A “large and extremely dangerous tornado” hit the New Orleans area Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said.
CNN affiliate WDSU reported the tornado moved through the Lower Ninth Ward. As of 7:50 p.m. CT, the weather service said New Orleans was in the clear – at least as far as the twister. “There are still showers around but none are severe at this time,” the weather service said.
Tornadoes also were hitting Mississippi. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, there were 18 reported, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
Tornado watches were in effect for eastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, much of Alabama and a portion of the Florida Panhandle.
“The threat for tornadoes will continue as a line of storm moves east into AL through the evening hours. Strong winds and hail are also possible,” the Storm Prediction Center tweeted.
Several tornado warnings have been issued in Alabama, meaning a tornado has been spotted or indicated on radar.
Nighttime tornadoes are more than twice as likely to be deadly as daytime ones, the center said. They “are particularly dangerous not only because people sleeping can get caught off guard but because an oncoming tornado can be shrouded in darkness, making it impossible for someone who is awake to actually see it,” CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.
A day earlier, two tornadoes in Williamson County, Texas, cut a path of damage more than 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.
Williamson County is just north of Austin, the state capital.
“I think we’re going to be absolutely amazed by the sheer number of homes that have been wrecked,” state Rep. Terry Wilson said.
Only minor injuries were reported in Round Rock, police Chief Allen Banks said.
In Grayson County, north of Dallas, a 73-year-old woman died after her home was destroyed in Monday’s storm, as were dozens of other dwellings in the state, local officials said.
There was one tornado in Marshall, Oklahoma, on Monday.
It’s important that people don’t forget about hazards other than tornadoes, including straight-line winds, large hail and flooding, meteorologist Hannah Lisney of the National Weather Service’s office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana said.
“Everything is on the table,” she said.
Aside from Tuesday’s tornado watch, more than 6 million of people from Louisiana up to Arkansas and Tennessee were under a flood watch or warning.
The system will weaken as it continues moving east Wednesday, bringing a slight risk of severe weather to areas including Atlanta and Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Students ride out storm in school
As of Tuesday evening, about 52,000 customers had no power in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana – almost 32,000 of them in Texas, according to PowerOutage.us.
In Jack County – northwest of the Fort Worth area – 60 to 80 homes were destroyed, local officials said. The National Weather Service determined the tornado 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 told reporters.
A shelter has been set up for those who lost their homes, officials said.
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.
Elementary school students got “pretty emotional” when they left the school and saw the damage caused by the storm, Burnett said.
Nine people in Jack County were hospitalized with minor injuries, the county’s Rural Fire Chief Jason Jennings said.
“When you can walk away and say that, so far, we’ve seen no major injuries and no deaths, with the devastation of what we’re seeing in our community and around our county – God’s hand was at work at keeping protection,” Jack County Office of Emergency Management Manager Frank Hefner said.
Jacksboro’s fire chief has never encountered such destruction in his community, he said.
“I’ve been a part of emergency services for 24 years here, I’ve never seen anything nowhere near this magnitude here,” Jeremy Jennings said. “Nothing like this, not even anywhere else in this county.”
An EF-2 tornado that blew through Houston County damaged 20 to 25 homes, according to Gov. Greg Abbott. “Despite the travesty of what occurred to property, the miracle is that no one lost their life,” Abbott said during a news conference in the county seat of Crockett.
The governor said that at about 10 people were injured, one seriously.
A reported tornado in Texas injured five people early Tuesday, part of a storm that spawned widespread destruction Monday and was bringing more severe weather, including tornadoes, across much of the Southeast.
The five injured people were in a trailer in Beasley as the storm moved through the area, according to Jacqueline Preston of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.
Farther south, in the Austin area, state agencies such as the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of Public Safety were responding to storm damage in Williamson and Bastrop counties, Abbott said.
A reported tornado moved through Round Rock in Williamson County around 6 p.m. Monday, authorities said.
An emergency declaration was already in effect in Williamson County due to the recent fires and will apply to storm damage as well, Abbott said.
“As we speak right now, I want everybody across the state that’s going through this to know, the state of Texas is going to be with you every step of the way,” the governor said.
While many homes, businesses and city-owned buildings suffered significant damage in the Round Rock area,
A deluge of much-needed rain
The storm has also dumped widespread rainfall of 1 to 2 inches, with some areas getting as much as 6 inches, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.
The severe weather struck as Texas was grappling with more than 170 wildfires over the past week – which had charred more than 108,000 acres, fire officials said.
The new rainfall should help with drought conditions in the region, Shackelford said, with another 1 to 4 inches of rainfall expected.
CNN’s Derek Van Dam reported from Baton Rouge. Kelly McCleary, Andy Rose, Claudia Dominguez, Rebekah Riess, Monica Garrett, Dave Hennen, Taylor Romine, Joe Sutton, Susannah Cullinane and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.