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23 injured after EF-3 tornado hits Texas as storms sweep across central U.S.

12 people were taken to hospitals after the storm in Bell County, north of Austin.
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Nearly two dozen people were injured after a tornado struck a Texas county Tuesday evening, officials said.

The tornado that struck Bell County near the town of Salado shortly after 5:30 p.m. was rated as an EF-3 with preliminary maximum winds of 165 mph, the National Weather Service said Wednesday.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn said that more than 60 structures, including homes, were damaged but there have been no deaths.

There were 23 people injured, including one who remained in critical condition Wednesday, Blackburn said. Of the injured, 12 were hospitalized and the rest either did not go to a hospital or were treated and released, he said the previous night.

“The damage, while significant, it certainly could have been worse,” Blackburn told reporters Tuesday night.

As severe storms swept through Texas on Tuesday, the weather service warned of a confirmed tornado that was moving into southern Bell County, approaching Salado. It urged people to seek shelter and to get into bathtubs.

The government in Salado, population around 2,300, said in a statement that the tornado did not enter the town, which is about 50 miles north of Austin.

The tornado, which began in neighboring Williamson County where it was an EF-1, traveled about 13 miles in Bell County, the weather service said. Storm surveys were continuing Wednesday.

Blackburn said “there’s not much left” in the path of the storm.

“Large trees uprooted, overturned, stripped, buildings really reduced to rubble at many locations, power lines, power poles scattered all over the place,” he said Tuesday.

The tornado occurred as the threat of storms and high winds affected a swath of the country from South Dakota and Minnesota to almost the Gulf Coast.

In North Dakota, blizzard conditions reduced visibility to almost zero, the weather service said. Most of Interstate 94, along with other highways and roads, had been closed due to life-threatening conditions, the state transportation department said. By Wednesday I-94 was reopened but a westbound stretch from Bismarck to Jamestown was closed again due to blowing snow.

Severe weather continued in parts of the Plains and the Deep South on Wednesday, including an EF-1 tornado shortly before 9 a.m. in the Stilwell, Oklahoma, area that damaged homes and buildings, tore down trees and injured one person, the weather service said.

Tornado watches covered parts of southern Louisiana and into Mississippi on Wednesday night.