Two tornadoes touched down in Bell County, Texas Monday evening, injuring 23 people and hospitalizing 12, one with critical injuries. The more damaging of the tornadoes was on the ground for an eye-popping seven miles, striking Salado, Texas, a town about midway between Austin and Waco on Interstate 35.
The tornado was first reported via 911 call around 5:40 pm local time. In its wake were downed power lines, flattened trees, and destroyed buildings. In a news conference Tuesday, David Blackburn, the Bell County Judge, said there was “not much left” in the tornado’s wake.
“Trees, large trees uprooted, overturned, stripped. Buildings really reduced to rubble in many locations. Powerlines, power poles scattered all over the place. It’s pretty devastating,” Blackburn said.
In addition to twisters, the storm system brought near-record sized hail to the region. The largest hailstone on record in Texas was 6.4 inches across, and the Weather Channel reported at least one 5.5-inch hailstone from last night’s severe weather.
The Bell County twisters were two of at least eight tornadoes that emerged last night, mainly in Texas and Iowa, as part of a larger storm system that also caused snowstorms in Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota. In Pony, Montana a recorded 47 inches of snow fell in just 24-hours, according to the National Weather Service.
As the storm continues to move East, more severe weather is forecast to hit the Midwest and South later in the week. Thunderstorms, tornado threats, heavy winds, and more massive hail are expected across an area spanning Louisiana to Michigan.
Although scientists have been able to link climate change to an increase in severe weather events like hurricanes, heatwaves, and flooding, the connection between climate change and tornadoes is less clear. Since 1965, the frequency of tornado outbreaks has gone up across the U.S., according to one 2016 study published in the journal Science. However, research is ongoing and for now, the relationship between a warming world and worsening twisters is murky.