Tornadoes. Large hail. Violent wind gusts. A large swath of the central United States braced for all three Saturday as meteorologists predicted the type of weather that can wreak havoc or, as was the case in Texas on Saturday, even be deadly.
A tornado that struck Eastland County, west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, killed one person and injured another critically, according to Walter Fairbanks, chief of the Cisco Fire Department.
That tornado — the first of three confirmed in the Lone Star State — was short-lived but destructive: Fairbanks told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that three houses had been “totaled,” and Phil Arthur, the fire chief in nearby Eastland, told CNN that several houses “got their roofs blown off.”
Arthur said Eastland was experiencing “major street flooding” and had downed power lines.
Elsewhere, two tornadoes were confirmed in eastern Colorado at around 4:30 p.m. MT (6:30 p.m. ET). The National Weather Service recorded one near Eads, or 20 miles south of Kit Carson, moving to the northeast at 35 mph. A second was recorded six miles north of Karval, or 31 miles south of Limon, moving north at 25 mph.
In Kansas, the Graham County Sheriff’s Department told CNN that “a fast-moving tornado touched down” at about 7 p.m. (9 p.m. ET). There were no reports of damage or injuries, according to dispatcher Barb Winhold.
Millions in storm’s path
By late Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service had issued dozens of tornado watches and warnings across portions of six states: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas — leaving millions potentially in the crosshairs.
A watch means conditions in that particular area are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, while a warning means they are imminent, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam explained that the system is the result of the frigid, dry air covering the northwest butting into an even larger mass of warm air rising up from the Gulf of Mexico laden with unstable moisture.
On one side, overnight lows plunge into the low 20s, where it’s snowing in some places; on the other, daytime highs push into the 80s, while thunderstorms rumble by. A low pressure area is churning in between them.
“That gives us the perfect playing field for severe weather across the central Plains States,” Van Dam said.