More than 200,000 homes and businesses in Texas, Arkansas and Missouri were in darkness Wednesday, and tornadoes were seen across much of Florida as a streak of severe weather wreaked havoc across much of the south.
In Texas, at least one tornado ripped off roofs east of Houston late Tuesday, knocking down power poles and overturning cars, trucks and even a train. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
On Wednesday, the weather threat targeted the Atlantic coast, with the I-95 corridor from northern Florida to southern Virginia at greatest risk. According to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, the biggest threat will be wind gusts that can reach 75 miles per hour.
The Tornado watch swept through southeast Alabama and Florida panhandling.
“A line of strong, intense thunderstorms will move east … into and through this watch area,” National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Edwards warned.
‘Extremely dangerous’ tornado hits Texas
The Weather Service warned at one point on Tuesday that a “large, extremely dangerous and potentially deadly tornado” was on the ground, heading for Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston. Street flooding has been a chronic problem throughout the region.
The National Weather Service said it is sending a team to study damage and confirm tornado strength in parts of southeast Texas. The American Red Cross said it was opening a shelter for residents of Pasadena, a city of 150,000 about 15 miles east of Houston.
Tornado blows up dog shelter in Texas
In Pasadena, the animal shelter lost power, water, and telephones, so the shelter and adoption center were closed.
“Please, help! A tornado hit the Pasadena Animal Shelter today! “Please, please share, and if you can keep a dog or 5 (garage, spare room, whatever), PLEASE help us!”
The shelter later posted on social media that most of the animals had been taken by other shelters and rescue organizations. “We assure you that the animals we have abandoned are being taken care of while we work to move them to foster families and other organizations.”
Train swept away in Deer Park
In the Houston suburb of Deer Park, tornadoes and destructive winds brought down a train. Dozens of buildings in the city suffered significant damage, and dozens of roads were closed due to fallen trees or power lines.
The school district posted a note on Facebook stating that many homes and businesses were damaged and that all of its buildings and some areas were out of power. After “thorough consideration”, Wednesday’s classes were cancelled.
“We hope this will give families a chance to recover from the stress of today’s events, and we believe it is best for children to stay with their parents or guardians after the disaster,” the statement said. It added that the cancellation would allow staff to determine the extent of damage to their own buildings.
City officials are urging residents to stay off the roads while workers attempt to repair downed power lines. Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton Jr. said he was amazed that no injuries were reported.
“We will deal with the property, restore and restore,” he said.
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Heavy snowfall in Arkansas; schools closed in Michigan
The storm system also brought snow and ice to much of the central US. More than a dozen school systems have closed due to snowfall in Michigan. In Chimes, Arkansas, 12 inches of snow fell on Tuesday, and 10 inches were reported in the Texas Panhandle in the city of Matador. On Tuesday, parts of Arkansas were paralyzed by heavy sleet. Schools and businesses were closed across Oklahoma, where up to 6 inches of snow was reported.
Contribute: Associated Press