Texas is hit by damaging winds as the Southeast braces for extreme weather

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A storm system capable of producing flooding, isolated tornadoes and ping-pong ball-sized hailstones was moving east across Texas on Tuesday morning, hours after high winds from the system damaged houses, felled trees and ripped off the roof of a high school.

Multiple tornadoes roared through central Texas beginning late Monday afternoon. Tornado winds in and around Austin, the state capital, toppled an 18-wheeler. In Elgin, about 40 km east of town, a mobile home was thrown on top of a building.

Pictures of houses destroyed, broken trees and the debris-strewn streets in Jacksboro, about 90 miles northwest of Dallas, have been widely circulated on social media.

Starting Tuesday morning, there were torrential rains in the Austin area, and a flash flood warning there were in effect until 3:45 a.m. About 50,000 customers across Texas, mostly in the northeastern part of the state, were without power, according to PowerOutage.usa website that aggregates data from utilities across the United States.

Tornado Watches were in effect until 8 a.m. for swaths of Texas that included Houston and encompassed a population of more than 7.5 million people. The National Weather Service said scattered wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour, a few tornadoes and isolated hailstorms were possible.

Other counties in Texas, southwestern Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana were under tornado watch until 3 a.m., the weather service said.

While thunderstorms are common in the region throughout the year, severe weather reached its peak in March, April and May.

As a powerful front producing rain and snow over the Rocky Mountains moves east by Tuesday, a wave of low pressure will develop over the southern high plains, the weather service said Monday. This system will pull moisture north over the plains and the Mississippi Valley from the Gulf of Mexico.

The thunderstorms could produce frequent lightning, strong gusty winds, hail, tornadoes and excessive rainfall that could lead to flash flooding, meteorologists said.

Here is an overview of forecasts by region.

Several homes and structures in central Texas were destroyed by high winds on Monday, Governor Greg Abbott told an evening press conference about 40 miles north of Austin. No deaths have been reported so far, he said.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell, Jr., who joined the governor at the event, said several people were injured while sheltering in their homes from the storm, but authorities did not did not provide specific figures.

The storm also knocked down power lines, creating dangerous conditions, the judge said. As a result, he said, power to parts of the county would be shut off “to protect first responders and protect those making necessary repairs.” He did not say when the electricity would be restored.

The winds severely damaged a school in north central Texas.

“There is no roof anymore,” Starla Sanders, the principal of Jacksboro High School, told the local television station. WFAA. School ended “a little early” so students could go home safely, and no injuries were reported, Ms Sanders said.

She said she had heard reports that her house had also been damaged. “I haven’t been there,” Ms. Sanders added. “The road is blocked, but that’s what people say – that there isn’t much left of my own house.”

Parts of Texas could receive up to four inches of rain through Tuesday evening, with some areas receiving more rain as well as possible street flooding, the Houston Weather Service said.

Although there was uncertainty over the timing of the storms and which areas would receive the heaviest rain, meteorologists told residents to be prepared.

As storms push east Tuesday, more than two million people in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi could face extreme weather conditions. Cities in the storms’ path include Baton Rouge, La., and Jackson, Miss.

The main threat on Tuesday will be tornadoes and damaging winds before and after the storm, the New Orleans Weather Service said, adding that hail over an inch in diameter could develop. Up to three inches of rain are forecast. A tornado outbreak is also likely on Tuesday.

Areas of Mississippi can see winds as strong as 70 miles per hour and hail the size of golf balls, the forecasters said.

About three inches of rain is expected in Memphis. Areas to the east, including Georgia, are expected to receive less rain.

Parts of the East Coast will have a slight risk of severe weather from Wednesday.

Mike Ives and David Montgomery contributed report.

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