(Reuters) – At least seven people were hurt and the small east Texas town of Franklin sustained major damage on Saturday when a tornado touched down amid severe thunderstorms in the region, police and local media said.
At least one woman, who was pulled from the wreckage of her mobile home, sustained life-threatening injuries when the twister hit, USA Today reported.
“The city of Franklin sustained heavy damage from the storms,” the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office said in an internet alert. “If you are a resident of Franklin and can NOT access your home you are directed to the First Baptist Church.”
Local television station KWTX-TV reported at least two mobile homes were damaged by the tornado, cars were overturned and power lines were down, leaving many of the town’s 1,500 residents without electricity.
Power outages were reported in nearby communities as well as thunderstorms pounded the state and a swath of the U.S. South.
Franklin is about 65 miles (105 km) southeast of Waco, Texas.
The National Weather Service on Saturday issued warnings of enhanced risk of severe weather for parts of Texas, Louisiana, southern Arkansas, Mississippi and western Alabama.
Bob Oravec, a meteorologist for the service’s Weather Prediction Center, said the agency rarely issues risk levels that high – level four on their five-step scale, meaning long-lived, widespread and intense storms are likely.
“That emphasizes that threat level,” Oravec said.
Parts of Texas and Louisiana were experiencing heavy rain early on Saturday. In Texas, the service predicted wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour (113 km per hour) and large hail up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
Oravec said the storms were expected to continue into the evening before moving east by Sunday morning, where they will stretch from the Ohio Valley and into the Southeast.
“The worst stuff is going to be from this morning into this evening, he added. “After that it should be winding down as it moves further east.”
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis)