More than 65 million people from central Florida to southern Michigan and east to the Virginia coast are at a slight risk of severe weather Wednesday, including the possibility of major hail, gusts and tornadoes, said CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford.
Cities in the threat area include Columbus, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Savannah, Georgia; and Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro in North Carolina.
The system already cut a road of destruction in Texas, where 25 tornadoes landed Monday, including two that damaged about 1,000 homes in Williamson County, near Austin, officials said. A 73-year-old woman was killed in Grayson County, north of Dallas, when her home was destroyed in the storm, local officials said.
On Tuesday, a deadly tornado tore through the New Orleans area, killing at least one person, officials said. Extensive destruction was reported in the area.
The biggest risk of tornadoes Wednesday is in the Florida panhandle, southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas, Shackelford said. There is also an increased chance of damaging winds and hail over eastern Indiana and central Ohio.
The system collected more than 175 storm reports over a 48-hour period, Shackelford said. It also brought widespread rainfall of 2 to 4 inches across parts of the south, with some areas of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama at 4 to 8 inches.
Deadly tornado tears through the New Orleans area
While forecasters are tracking the movement of the system to the east, crews in the New Orleans area are assessing the damage left behind.
Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East were hit by a tornado just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell said, and rescue crews dug through the devastation overnight.
One person was killed in the Arabi district of St. Petersburg. Bernard Parish, Parish President Guy McInnis told CNN.
“We have some homes that were razed to the ground. We have homes that were lifted up and put down on the street again,” McInnis said of his community, which borders Orleans Parish, home to New Orleans’ iconic French Quarter.
“The area I’ve seen tonight, it’s totally ruined in a few of our neighborhoods,” McInnis told CNN’s Don Lemon.
McInnis said he did not yet have a fixed number of injuries, but there are reports of more residents seeking treatment.
“We have a long night ahead of us and a long road to recovery, but I feel confident we will get everything done here quickly for our citizens,” McInnis said.
There were no reports of injuries or significant damage in the Orleans Parish yet, Cantrell said Tuesday night. New Orleans Police, Fire and EMS departments were staged to help in St. Louis. Bernard Parish, she added.
“Residents should avoid any non-essential travel to allow professionals to deal with this situation,” Cantrell said in the statement.
Dozens of tornadoes landed in Texas
Two tornadoes in Williamson County, near Austin, cut a 20-mile-long damage trail, according to the county chief. “We believe there is somewhere near a thousand homes that have been damaged or completely destroyed,” County Judge Bill Gravell said at a news conference.
“I think we will be completely amazed at the large number of homes that have been destroyed,” State Representative Terry Wilson said.
In Jack County – northwest of the Fort Worth area – 60 to 80 homes were destroyed, local officials said. The National Weather Service found a tornado that was an EF-3, with winds between 140 and 150 mph.
“Many of our homes have been totally demolished and families have been removed from their residences,” Jack County Judge Keith Umphress said.
It was a miracle that more people were not injured – especially at Jacksboro Elementary School, which housed a large number of students when a storm severely damaged the gym, said Jacksboro Fire Chief Jeremy Jennings.
The children were about to be released for the day when officials decided to get everyone to go inside, Jacksboro Police Chief Scott Haynes said.
The gym at Jacksboro High School was also badly damaged and the facilities will be useless “for some time,” Jennings said.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Chris Boyette, Holly Yan and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.