CISCO, Texas (AP) — Multiple tornadoes tore through North Texas on Saturday, leaving one person dead and others unaccounted for in a sparsely populated farming and ranching area as the system slowly weakened while advancing toward Fort Worth.
Walter Fairbanks, fire chief in Cisco — about 100 miles west of Fort Worth, confirmed there was one fatality when the tornado hit Saturday afternoon near the town.
Authorities were going house to house to assess the damage, but that proved difficult amid the heavy rainfall, Eastland County Judge Rex Fields said.
“There is a considerable amount of damage,” Fields, who also serves as the county’s emergency services coordinator, told The Associated Press. “Homes have been lost.”
The extent of injuries or fatalities wasn’t immediately clear there or in the town of Burkburnett, about 15 miles north of Wichita Falls, where a second tornado touched down. A police dispatcher who declined to give her name due to department policy said tornado sirens could be heard in Burkburnett just before 6 p.m.
The storm was about 30 miles outside of Fort Worth around 8:30 p.m., but the National Weather Service had canceled tornado warnings in the counties still in its path.
The weather service on Saturday afternoon elevated to “moderate” the risk of tornadoes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and elsewhere across North Texas. Eastland County, which was part of the enhanced zone, was pelted with 3-inch hail as the storm rumbled through.
“As expected, the environment in North Texas is particularly favorable (for tornadoes),” said Bill Bunting, the chief of operations at the Norman, Oklahoma-based Storm Prediction Center.
Storms also brought heavy rain and quarter-sized hail to parts of southwest Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon, but meteorologists said there was so much rain — and so little sun — that the tornado threat there lessened throughout the day. Parts of western Kansas also were bracing for severe storms.
But the threatening skies stretched beyond the Plains states, as twin weather systems stretching from the Carolinas to California produced an unseasonably early tropical storm in the Atlantic and a late-season snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains. Tropical Storm Ana’s forecast track is expected to go near the coasts of North and South Carolina on Sunday.
Meanwhile, up to 5 inches of snow was possible in the Nebraska Panhandle this weekend, and parts of South Dakota could receive between 12 to 24 inches of snow, according to the weather service.
Associated Press writer Sean Murphy contributed to this report.