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At least 1 killed in Texas storm; power could be out for days

                                Wreckage is strewn across a property the day after a deadly series of tornados hit the central United States, in Valley View, Texas, in a still image from aerial video.
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Wreckage is strewn across a property the day after a deadly series of tornados hit the central United States, in Valley View, Texas, in a still image from aerial video.

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Levelland, Texas residents pick up the pieces after storm damage

At least one person was killed after another round of powerful storms brought rain, high winds and large hail to Texas on Tuesday, causing widespread damage, knocking out power to more than half a million utility customers and temporarily halting flights at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

The storms left widespread damage across the Dallas area, including felled power lines, uprooted trees, and tractor-trailers that were overturned, according to the National Weather Service.

By Tuesday evening, more than 500,000 Texas utility customers were without power, most of them concentrated in North Texas and the eastern part of the state, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utility companies across the country. Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins, the top executive in Dallas County, said Tuesday that power could be out for days and that authorities were prioritizing restoring service at hospitals and law enforcement buildings. Hospitals were operating on generator power, he added.

In the Houston area, a 16-year-old construction worker after a home collapsed on him in Montgomery County, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. In a news release, the sheriff’s office said the teenager was working in the Magnolia neighborhood when storms and heavy winds pushed through the area Tuesday. He and other workers sought refuge inside one of homes under construction, local officials said.

A “preliminary investigation has determined that the workers noticed the house began to shift during the thunderstorm and all but one were able to exit before the house collapsed,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. The teenager was pronounced dead on the scene, the sheriff’s office said.

No other injuries or fatalities have been reported.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center issued a severe thunderstorm watch until 2 a.m. Wednesday for more than a dozen counties in southern Texas, warning of wind gusts of up to 80 mph and large hail.

Sub-severe storms moved into the Central Texas area late Tuesday, carrying the risks of heavy rain and localized flooding concerns, said Matt Bishop, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Fort Worth. “We will have to keep an eye out on what happens over the next 24 hours,” Bishop said, adding that the area could see severe weather again Thursday.

Central Texas faced the greatest risk of severe weather Tuesday afternoon, with forecasts showing a moderate risk over a melon-shaped area that included Abilene, Waco, Austin and Midland. Amarillo, Dallas and San Antonio were also at risk.

The severe weather threat came as more than 2.6 million people were under a heat advisory across South Texas on Tuesday, which has been gripped by oppressively hot weather for days.

A line of thunderstorms with wind gusts of up to 86 mph was recorded in the Denton area, northwest of Dallas, and a second round brought winds of about 60 mph, said Tom Bradshaw, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Fort Worth.

The storms included damaging winds, with gusts as high as 70 mph and hail the size of golf balls, the weather service said on social media.

Matt Stalley, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Fort Worth, said the agency had no plans to assess whether any tornadoes had touched down, adding that much of the damage across the area was likely caused by powerful straight-line winds.

By noon, the storm activity had moved beyond the eastern fringes of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but there was a “decent chance we will have another round” Tuesday night, Bradshaw said.

Parts of Texas were also facing extreme heat Tuesday. The heat index in Laredo was expected to reach 115 degrees, while the heat index in Brownsville and Corpus Christi was also expected to reach the triple digits.

“We’re rivaling what is typically more like the summertime,” said Tim Humphrey, a meteorologist with the weather service in Corpus Christi.

By Tuesday, the Corpus Christi area had recorded eight consecutive days in which the temperature has not dropped below 80 degrees, even at night, Humphrey said.

“When it’s very warm during the overnight hours, your body just doesn’t have that time to recover,” he said.

Much of Mexico has been gripped for several days by a heat wave that has killed dozens of howler monkeys and prompted rolling blackouts. The brutal heat across South Texas has been the result of hot temperatures shifting northward from Mexico as warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico have brought humid conditions to the state, Humphrey said. The humidity and high temperatures have combined to create dangerous heat index values across much of South Texas, he said.

The storms in Texas come on the heels of severe weather that stretched across much of the country over the holiday weekend. Storms and tornadoes killed at least 23 people from Texas to Virginia and left hundreds of thousands of customers without power. Heavy rain and damaging winds snarled holiday travel plans from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Texas has had a particularly bad spate of weather this spring, with heavy rain inundating parts of the state just weeks ago.

Election officials in Dallas County said that the severe weather delayed the start of a runoff election. Jenkins said 103 election locations were without power, but another 180 places were open.

Grant Cruise, a spokesperson for Oncor, a Texas electricity provider, said at a news conference that crews were assessing the damage Tuesday. He said the response was more a matter of “complete reconstruction” rather than the simple repair of downed power lines.

“We are asking for your patience,” he said.

Heath Montgomery, a spokesperson for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, said that the Federal Aviation Administration grounded flights there from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. About 90 flights were canceled for the day, and a number of flights were diverted to other airports, he said.

Beyond Texas, Kentucky is expecting a reprieve in the coming days as the National Guard and forestry workers continue to clear downed trees and dangerous debris from powerful storms that killed four people over the weekend. The weather service in Louisville said that mostly dry weather was expected in the coming days, with no rain in the forecast until the weekend.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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