A line of storms moving across North Texas spawned at least two confirmed tornadoes on Tuesday, including one near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where passengers were briefly urged to shelter in place and hundreds of flights were delayed.
There were two reports of injuries and “multiple reports of homes and businesses damaged” in Wise County, northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where one of the tornadoes touched down, the county’s Office of Emergency Management said in a statement.
One person was injured by flying debris while traveling in their vehicle and treated at the scene, the emergency management office said. The other person was taken to a hospital after high winds overturned an eighteen-wheeler truck, though the emergency management office did not provide information on the hospitalized person’s condition.
The emergency management office said it was still assessing the damage and that the primary areas of concern were south of Decatur, where 6,500 people live, and east of Paradise, a town with less than 500 residents.
“A confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado was located near Decatur,” according to a bulletin from the National Weather Service, issued at 7:20 a.m. Central time. The tornado is no longer a threat to the area, but the line of storms that produced it could spawn more tornadoes as it moves east.
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The tornadic storms are the lower section of a much larger weather system that is bringing significant, widespread hazards across more than a dozen states in the central United States. Parts of the Plains and Upper Midwest were seeing heavy snow, sleet and ice, with winter and blizzard conditions affecting multiple states.
In Texas, the tornado near the airport was seen on video, according to the Weather Service, crossing a highway near Grapevine, Texas, where there were reports of damaged buildings and downed power lines and trees. The Grapevine Police Department said on Facebook that five people were injured in the storms and had been hospitalized, but it did not have information on their conditions.
A local mall, Sam’s Club and Walmart in Grapevine closed for the day because of damage from the storm. Power outages forced some elementary schools in the area to close early for the day and students at Grapevine middle school were evacuated because of roof damage and a water leak on campus.
Airport passengers were asked to shelter in place because of a tornado warning, which was lifted after the storm passed. About 640 flights into and out of the airport were delayed, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website.
Outdoor warning sirens also blared across Fort Worth at 8:15 a.m. local time. Kristen O’Hara, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Fire Department, said that as of 11:15 a.m. local time, there were no reports of structural damage in the city. “The main damage across the city, including the smaller sub-cities of Sansom Park and River Oaks, are downed power lines and trees,” Ms. O’Hara said in an email.
More than 24,000 customers in Texas were without power on Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utility companies across the country.
The risk of severe storms will move east throughout the day, with more tornadoes possible in the afternoon and evening in eastern Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
By Wednesday, the threat will move east, likely affecting southern Louisiana and Alabama and putting more populated areas, like New Orleans, at risk for severe weather.
Scientists are not yet able to determine whether or not there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes. Tornadoes are relatively small, short-lived weather events and, because of that, there is limited historical data on their prevalence in the past; scientists need at least 40 years of weather data before they are able to draw a causal link.
Researchers do say that in recent years tornadoes seem to be occurring in greater “clusters,” and that the area of the country known as Tornado Alley, a region where most tornadoes occur, seems to be shifting eastward.
The timing of tornado seasons is also becoming more unpredictable, researchers have found, with more early and late starts compared with decades ago. The reason for this is unclear.