The combination of an unstable air mass and a frontal boundary triggered severe storms from Texas to Arkansas on Friday with reports of at least a dozen tornadoes stretching across the central United States .
The tornado outbreak was expected, and the FOX Weather Center said there was a possibility of tornadoes rating EF-2 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
Local officials appeared prepared for the weather, with some schools allowing early layoffs and Texas activating its emergency response plan.
The first tornado storms of the day appeared to break out in northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma.
Several mobile homes were reportedly damaged near Bryan County, Oklahoma along the Texas-Oklahoma border as severe thunderstorms rolled in Friday afternoon.
A tractor-trailer in nearby Durant, Oklahoma was also overturned during the first wave of severe storms.
State authorities earlier reported that at least one person was injured after a home was destroyed in McCurtain County.
DAMAGE SPOTTED AFTER TORNADO WARNED THUNDERSTORMS MOVE THROUGH TEXAS, OKLAHOMA
The storms also produced a 63 mph wind gust at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled.
The atmosphere did not become ideal for the spinning supercells until they reached the east of the metroplex.
Extensive damage to homes was reported in the towns of Powderly, Chicota and other small communities in northeast Texas. Witnesses near the Texas-Oklahoma border reported snapped trees and extensive damage to structures.
One of the hardest hit areas in Texas was Lamar County. Damage was reported in the cities of Paris and Powderly.
Videos showed roofless houses and damage to trees and power lines. Despite the destruction, officials said they had not received reports of fatalities but were working on several injuries.
The tornado outbreak produced similar scenes in Cason, Texas, and Idabel, Oklahoma. Witnesses in both cities reported that the darkness and the scale of the destruction made the adventure dangerous.
Cody McDaniel, Idabel’s director of emergency management, said he was hoping for the best after his town was directly hit by a tornado. “Just stay away from Idabel,” McDaniel pleaded.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt tweeted, “Praying for Oklahomans affected by today’s tornadoes. Storms hit Bryan, Choctaw, and Le Flore counties, among others. Additional flash flooding in some areas. Search and rescue crews and generators sent to the Idabel region.”
First responders were still combing through debris overnight in search of storm victims in Cason, Texas.
Officials have not confirmed any deaths in the Lone Star so far, but said search and rescue operations were still underway in several communities.
NIGHT TORNADOES ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BECOME DEADLY THAN DAYTIME TORNADOES
A few days before assessments and cleaning
National Weather Service offices in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas will likely be busy over the weekend investigating at least half a dozen tornado reports.
“It looks like we’ll be inspecting at least a few places tomorrow and maybe a little more on Sunday. Right now the worst damage we’re hearing is in Lamar County, near the city of Paris, Texas, plus specifically in the town of Powderly, where there may have been extensive damage and possible rescue operations underway,” said Ted Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Dallas.
The devastating storms caused power outages in the Lone Star State that affected more than 55,000 customers. PowerOutage.us reported outages in Oklahoma and Arkansas exceeding nearly 7,000 in the heart of the storms.
Meteorologists should inspect the area around Sulfur Springs, Texas, which is about an hour’s drive from Dallas.
“There were people who were in their truck driving off and ended up getting trapped in their truck,” said Rodney Caudle, an assistant firefighter for Hopkins County. “It’s very, very amazing just to see the amount of damage, you know, and no injuries. It’s just brilliant. It’s a good thing.”
The American Red Cross has opened at least one shelter in northeast Texas for storm victims.
HOW METEOROLOGISTS DETERMINE IF A TORNADO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR STORM DAMAGE
Decreasing storm threat on Saturday
The main low pressure system will continue to track northeast across the Great Lakes and Canada, but a dragging cold front will be the main focal point for showers and thunderstorms on Saturday.
Damaging gusty winds 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 to 3 inches could cause temporary flooding of poor drainage areas.
Forecast models show thunderstorm activity should be over by Sunday as the front moves towards the East Coast.
HOW TO WATCH FOX WEATHER
Autumn is the second severe weather season in America
Although most people think of spring as the season for severe weather, fall is the second severe weather season in the country.
“This is the second peak of their season for tornadoes,” Bender said.
Fall is when the jet stream begins its southward migration into the southern United States. In doing so, it strengthens as the temperature contrast between the cold air in the north and the warm air in the south becomes more pronounced.
A more robust jet stream can fuel severe weather, adding the rotation and energy needed in the atmosphere for thunderstorms to develop and intensify, eventually leading to the formation of tornadoes.
A cold storm system that has brought heavy rain to the lowlands and several inches, if not feet, of mountain snow to the west is moving toward the central plains, where it draws in an atmosphere primed by the fuel of the storm: hot, humid air.
WESTERN SNOW LAYERS WILL CONTINUE TO GROW AS MAJOR STORM SWEEPS AREA
“You get all that Gulf moisture pumped through the Lone Star State into Oklahoma and Kansas,” Bender said. “Then the collision course happens and you’ll see this wind shear really intensifying over West Texas and the Permian Basin.”
Bender said extreme weather in the fall could be more dangerous because the shorter days make tornadoes in the dark more likely.
Sign up for severe weather alerts and warnings on the FOX Weather app to be notified if and when you need to take shelter and find your safe spot. Watch FOX Weather on your smartphone, tablet, computer or TV.