Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the U.S. and up into the Midwest were blamed Saturday in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two first responders, as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered large swaths of the country.
Storms packed with high winds slammed the Brazos Valley on Friday night, leaving thousands without power and downing trees. While no injuries were reported locally, the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado was briefly on the ground Friday night near Caldwell.
According to the NWS, a tornado with a path length about 0.11 miles and a path width of about 100 yards destroyed a shed and snapped numerous trees about 7 miles west of Caldwell.
The NWS reports a roof was blown off a home about 5 miles east of Wixon Valley, and elsewhere in Brazos County 3-inch tree limbs and power poles were broken.
Duane Strange, emergency management coordinator for Burleson County, said roof damage to Somerville ISD’s Yegua gymnasium — which is used as an activity center — was determined to have been caused by straight line winds. He added that the majority of those who lost power Friday night in Burleson County had their electricity restored by Saturday evening.
According to Michele Bailey-Meade, Brazos County emergency management coordinator, there were two houses that received roof damage and one that had the roof removed in areas near F.M. 1179 and Elmo Weedon Road. At one of the homes that received roof damage, a travel trailer had flipped. At Karstens RV on Elmo Weedon Road, two storage units had the overhead doors removed, and an RV was tipped, she said.
There also were reports of roof damage and fences down in Woodland Hills in College Station.
Late Friday, thousands were without power in Bryan and College Station, but Bailey-Meade said by 9:30 a.m. Saturday power had been restored to most customers.
In Grimes County, a trailer had been overturned in Bedias and a roof was taken off of a home, the Bedias News confirmed. The American Red Cross opened a shelter in Navasota on Saturday night to provide a warm place for those without power to sleep, according to a press release.
Elsewhere in Texas, two first responders were killed and another was critically injured in Lubbock on Saturday morning after they were hit by a vehicle while working the scene of a traffic accident in icy conditions, officials said.
Police Officer Nicholas Reyna, 27, who had been with the department for one year, died at the scene. Firefighter Lt. David Hill, 39, was taken to a local hospital where he later died. Firefighter Matthew Dawson, 30, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Another person died in Texas on Friday night when a car flipped into a creek in Dallas as severe thunderstorms passed through.
A man drowned near Kiowa, Oklahoma, after he was swept away in floodwaters, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Saturday. Randall Hyatt, 58, of Wardville, was overwhelmed by rushing water while getting out of his stalled truck.
The Iowa State Patrol said roads were caked with ice early Saturday when a semitrailer on Interstate 80 overturned, killing a passenger in the truck.
In Alabama, three people were confirmed killed near Carrollton in Pickens County, the National Weather Service in Birmingham tweeted. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the deaths were caused by an “embedded tornado within a long line of intense thunderstorms.”
Earlier Saturday, in northwestern Louisiana, firefighters found the bodies of an elderly couple near their demolished trailer in Benton, the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office said via Facebook. The winds were so strong the home of the couple, who were the in-laws of a parish deputy, was moved 200 feet from its foundation.
Also in Louisiana, Raymond Holden, 75, was killed in his bed when a tree fell on his home in Oil City, crushing him, according to the Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office.