Severe storms trigger tornado outbreak in central US

The combination of an unstable air mass and a frontal boundary triggered severe storms from Texas through Arkansas on Friday with reports of at least a dozen tornadoes stretched across the central U.S.

The tornado outbreak was expected, and the FOX Weather Center said there was a possibility of twisters ranking EF-2 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Local authorities appeared to be prepared for the severe weather, with some schools allowing early dismissal and Texas activating its emergency response plan.

The first tornadic storms of the day appeared to pop in northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma.

Several mobile homes were reported to be damaged near Bryan County, Oklahoma, along the Texas-Oklahoma state line, as strong thunderstorms pushed through on Friday afternoon.

A tractor trailer in nearby Durant, Oklahoma, was also flipped during the initial wave of severe storms.

Authorities in the Sooner State reported at least one person was injured after a home was destroyed in McCurtain County.


The storms also produced a 63 mph wind gust at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where hundreds of flights were either delayed or canceled.

The atmosphere did not become prime for rotating supercells until they reached east of the metroplex.

Significant damage to homes was reported in the towns of Powderly, Chicota and other small communities in the northeast part of Texas. Witnesses near the Texas-Oklahoma border reported trees snapped and significant damage to structures.

One of the hardest hit areas in Texas was Lamar County. Damage was reported in the towns of both Paris and Powderly.

Videos showed homes without roofs and damage to trees and power lines. Despite the destruction, officials said they had not received reports of fatalities but are working several injuries.

The tornado outbreak produced similar scenes in Cason, Texas, and Idabel, Oklahoma. Witnesses in both towns reported the combination of nightfall and the amount of destruction made venturing out unsafe.

Cody McDaniel, Idabel's emergency management director, said he was hoping for the best after his town took a direct hit from a tornado. "Just stay away from Idabel," McDaniel pleaded.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt tweeted, "Praying for Oklahomans impacted by today's tornadoes. Storms hit in Bryan, Choctaw, and Le Flore counties, among others. Additional flash flooding in some areas. Search & rescue teams and generators forwarded to the Idabel area."

First responders were still combing through debris through the overnight hours looking for storm victims in Cason, Texas.

So far, officials have not confirmed any fatalities in the Lone Star but said search and rescue operations were still ongoing in several communities.


Days ahead of assessments and clean-up

National Weather Service offices in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas will likely be busy over the weekend surveying at least half a dozen reports of twisters.

"It looks like we'll be surveying at least a couple locations tomorrow and maybe some more on Sunday. Right now, the worst of the damage that we're hearing is in Lamar County, near the town of Paris, Texas, specifically in the town of Powderly, where there may have been some significant damage there and possible rescue operations ongoing right now," said Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Dallas.

The damaging storms caused power outages in the Lone Star State to impact more than 55,000 customers. reported outages in Oklahoma and Arkansas topped nearly 7,000 during the heart of the storms.

Meteorologists are expected to survey the area region around Sulphur Springs, Texas, which is about an hour drive outside of Dallas.

"There were people were in their truck fixing to leave and actually ended up being trapped in their truck," said Rodney Caudle, a deputy fire marshal in Hopkins County. "It's very, very amazing just to see the amount of damage, you know, and no injuries. It's just very awesome. It's a good thing."

The American Red Cross opened at least one shelter in northeast Texas for storm victims.


Diminished storm threat on Saturday

The main low pressure system will continue to head northeastward into the Great Lakes and Canada, but a trailing cold front will be the main focal point of showers and thunderstorms on Saturday. 

Damaging wind gusts will be possible, and the threat could include an isolated tornado along the Gulf Coast.

In addition to the storm threat, rainfall amounts of 1-3 inches could lead to temporary flooding of poor drainage areas.

Forecast models show thunderstorm activity should be wrapped up by Sunday as the front pushes towards the East Coast.


Although most people think spring is the time for severe weather, fall is the country's second severe weather season. It can also be more dangerous because shorter days make tornadoes in the dark more likely.

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