Tornado Threats In Texas Storm

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Thunderstorms pounded San Antonio, Austin and Dallas on Wednesday morning and moved into Houston, bringing the parched Lone Star State drenching rains and destructive winds that knocked out power, flooded streets and kept emergency workers busy with water rescues.

Springlike moisture from the Gulf of Mexico dropped the heaviest rainfall – 6-8 inches – on an area east of Austin and San Antonio along IH-35, said Mark Wiley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

“That’s very unusual for this time of year,” he told Reuters. “It was just so much rain in such a short period of time. In so many areas, the ground is still fairly dry, but it was just so fast that it didn’t have anywhere to go, especially in the urban areas.”

Crews were planning to check for evidence of tornadoes, he said. He did not have reports of any injuries.

By midday, the powerful storms were pushing into Houston and were expected to move gradually into Louisiana.

“Now, Houston will be under the gun,” Wiley said.

Tornadoes are possible on Wednesday afternoon and evening, according to AccuWeather.com.

In Bastrop, an area east of Austin heavily damaged by Labor Day weekend wildfires, schools canceled classes on Wednesday. And in Pflugerville, north of Austin, school buses were delayed Wednesday morning because the school district’s bus barn was damaged overnight, the district website said.

In San Antonio, lightning hit an apartment complex on the city’s north side as storms blew through, sparking a fire that forced people into the driving rain and destroyed four apartments, officials said.

Between Austin and Houston, in Brenham, high winds twisted trees and tore the roofs off a couple of buildings in the downtown area, said Ricky Boeker, fire chief and emergency management coordinator.

“It sounded like the world was coming apart — I’m not going to lie,” Boeker told Reuters.

The severe weather in Texas follows damaging storms and tornadoes that swept through Arkansas and Alabama earlier in the week.

In Texas, “while most of the region is still in the grips of a severe drought and very much needs the rain, too much rain too quickly can do more harm than good,” AccuWeather.com meteorologist Mark Miller said in a Wednesday report. “Still, the rain will go a long way in helping to reduce the severity of the drought in exceptionally dry locations.”

CPS Energy, the South Texas electric utility, reported more than 30,000 customers without power as wind snapped electric power lines and knocked out traffic signals during the morning rush hour in San Antonio. In Austin, some 5,000 customers of Austin Energy lost power, spokesman Ed Clark said.

As San Antonio resident Johnny Grant surveyed damage to homes in his northwest San Antonio neighborhood on Wednesday, he said of the storm: “It sounded like a freight train to me. It was something terrible.”

(Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper, Deborah Quinn Hensel and Corrie MacLaggan. Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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