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Severe thunderstorms threaten more than 15 million today from the South to the Northeast after flooding triggered water rescues in Texas’ capital

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The same weather system that spawned tornadoes, deadly storms and water rescues in the central US continues to lash Texas with heavy rain as it crawls east early Friday, putting more than 15 million people at risk of severe thunderstorms from the South and Midwest to the Northeast.

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Strong thunderstorms with large hail, gusty winds and isolated tornadoes could whip parts of the upper Texas coastal plain into the lower Mississippi Valley, along with the upper Ohio Valley into the lower Great Lakes region, the Storm Prediction Center said.

A small section of South Texas, including Brownsville, faces a Level 2 of 5 “slight risk” of severe weather, while places including Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Cleveland; and Buffalo, New York, are under a Level 1 of 5 “marginal risk.” A flash flooding threat runs from the mid-Mississippi Valley to the Gulf Coast.

Floods triggered by Thursday’s storm system forced some in Austin, Texas, to yell for help as storms overnight Thursday prompted water rescues across the capital. One person ended up in the hospital after a group got trapped between a fence and creek, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services said.

Six more were rescued after cars piled up in a creek, the agency said.

Crews also used ropes to get to two people who couldn’t move amid high water. And the Austin Fire Department plucked a driver from the deluge after a report a motorist was sitting atop a car, it said.

At least one tornado report was recorded in Tyler, Texas, on Thursday night, a day after more than a dozen tornadoes were reported across Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas.

Alerts for large hail, damaging winds and the possibility of tornadoes also led to temporary ground stops Thursday night at San Antonio and Austin–Bergstrom international airports as the areas faced a “life-threatening” flash flood warning, the National Weather Service said.

Oklahoma endures significant tornado damage

Among the places hardest-hit after Wednesday’s tornado reports is the town of Cole, Oklahoma, where two people were reported dead in the community of 600, officials said. A third weather-related death was also reported in central Oklahoma.

Survey crew in McClain County (near Cole) just uploaded this picture back to the office. Four people were in this house when the tornado hit. All survived by sheltering under a mattress in their mud room. #okwx

— NWS Norman (@NWSNorman) April 20, 2023

The deaths came after a tornado with an estimated peak wind speed between 150 and 155 mph struck the town about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City, according to the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma..

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The tornado – rated an EF-3 due to its wind speed – traveled for about 11 miles inside McClain County in about 35 minutes, the survey determined.

Another tornado packing estimated peak winds of between 130 and 135 mph swept across the city of Shawnee in Pottawatomie County, data from the preliminary survey shows. That tornado was rated an EF-2.

Meanwhile, an EF-2 tornado also struck the town of Etowah, home to some 160 people in Cleveland County, and traveled for about 10.5 miles, the preliminary survey found.

Many areas in Oklahoma experienced some form of severe weather Wednesday, but the Cole and Shawnee areas sustained the most significant storm damages, the state’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security said in an update Thursday.

Between 50 and 100 homes were damaged in Cole, and another 100 were damaged in Shawnee, according to the update, though assessments are still ongoing.

“Our county was hit hard and it will take a while for every area to be checked,” the Pottawatomie County emergency management agency said after the tornado struck.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency for McClain, Pottawatomie, Cleveland, Lincoln and Oklahoma counties due to the severe storms and tornadoes.

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