The I-35 corridor, stretching from San Antonio to the greater Austin metro area, recently witnessed a series of short-lived tornadoes, leaving many questioning whether this region falls within “tornado alley.” As the National Weather Service (NWS) investigates the extent of damage and the number of tornadoes that touched down, uncertainties persist.
Meteorologist Paul Yura from the NWS explained that tornadoes during rainstorms along the interstate are not unprecedented in Central Texas. It’s relatively common for whirls of wind to gain strength during heavy rain events, but the exact count of tornadoes that struck between San Antonio and Austin on October 26 remains unclear.
Yura noted that over the past decade, there have been instances of very weak tornadoes forming in the greater San Antonio-Austin area. However, there were no expectations of a tornado outbreak similar to the one in 2017. Videos of tornadoes circulating on the internet suggest that these wind tunnels touched down in various locations, but the NWS is yet to confirm the exact number.
The investigation is ongoing, and Yura stated, “Until we get out and do official surveys, all we kind of know right now is some of the videos that we’re seeing. We’ll know more over the next couple of days when we get some folks out and can fairly determine how many there were and the path length and the strength of them.”
In addition to the number of tornadoes, the strength and overall damage remain unclear. Lora Lopez from the Texas Department of Transportation reported no accidents or damage to Texas highways as of Thursday afternoon. Still, images of a tornado just outside of Fort Sam Houston on San Antonio’s near Eastside highlighted the potential damage caused by a brief touchdown.
After a tornado event, weather agencies assess the damage’s start and end points, determine the path length, and evaluate the types of damage. They then estimate the tornado’s strength based on these factors.
As residents and authorities work to clean up and inspect damage, it’s crucial to exercise caution. The Bexar County Office of Emergency Management advises individuals to shut off electrical power, natural gas, and propane tanks if they suspect damage to their homes. They should also be vigilant for frayed wiring, sparks, or the odor of something burning and shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if necessary.
Fortunately, there were no emergency calls following the San Antonio tornado touchdown. However, the aftermath involved significant cleanup efforts by public works employees. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency encourage residents to follow local government guidance and complete damage assessment surveys on a state website if their property was affected by the storm.
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