Hail as large as baseballs fell in Texas on Wednesday, officials said, as thunderstorms whipped across parts of the American South and forecasters warned of possible damage from flying debris and flash flooding in low-lying areas over the next two days.
Storms across Central Texas were producing “very large, destructive hail” early Wednesday evening, including four-inch specimens that fell over Waco, a city south of Dallas, the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth said on Twitter.
Waco’s police department said that one of its officers’ cars had been hit with “baseball-size hail.” Unconfirmed reports streaming into the National Weather Service said that hail falling around Texas ranged from the size of nickels to golf balls.
Forecasters said they expected the storm system to push east on Thursday and Friday, potentially producing hail in Florida and flooding along the Gulf Coast.
The full extent of the hail-related damage in Texas was not immediately clear on Wednesday night. But more than 17,000 customers in the state were without power, and more than 300 flights departing from or landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport had been canceled. Officials in Rusk County, near the Louisiana border, said that more than 100 vehicles there had been damaged by a hailstorm.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said on Twitter that he had mobilized urban search and rescue teams, boat squads and other emergency resources to deal with the storms’ impacts. Nearly two million people in Texas and neighboring Louisiana were also under a tornado watch until 1 a.m. on Thursday.
On Tuesday, similar weather in Texas produced a tornado in Dickens County, about 260 miles northwest of Dallas. A tornado was also reported earlier this month in the northeastern city of Tyler.
In recent months, a number of severe storms have barreled across the southeastern United States. In March, nine people were killed when a powerful storm system swept unleashed wind, rain and flooding across the region.
More than 450 tornadoes have been confirmed across the United States this year. So far, each monthly total has exceeded the historical average based on data from 1991 to 2020, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a nonprofit in Washington that tracks extreme weather.
April Rubin contributed reporting.