Tornado kills at least 3 in Oklahoma as storms continue in Central U.S.
A severe storm system unleashed strong winds and hail over the Central U.S. and spawned several tornadoes from Wednesday night into Thursday morning — including one in Oklahoma that authorities said killed at least three people.
The big picture: The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm warnings across the region on Wednesday night, along with tornado watches and warnings for six states: Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma. More storms could affect a broad region on Thursday.
Of note: McClain County Emergency Management confirmed a "large and extremely dangerous tornado" over Cole, Oklahoma, was moving east at 30 mph in the evening.
- The McClain County Sheriff's office said Thursday at least three people died when the tornado struck. It also damaged buildings in the town.
- The National Weather Service also confirmed a "dangerous tornado" in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where images showed trees down and damage to Oklahoma Baptist University.
- The NWS storm damage survey team has found damage consistent with an EF-3 tornado near Cole, though the final rating has not yet been determined.
By the numbers: Nearly 17,000 customers were without power Thursday morning in Oklahoma, according to utility tracker poweroutage.us.
Context: The storms were sparked when a surge of cold, dry air moving in from the west, colliding with a warm, humid air mass surging northward from the Gulf of Mexico.
- Unstable air built up during the day on Wednesday, and an air mass boundary plus energy in the form of strong jet stream winds triggered the storms.
- What's next: More severe weather is forecast on Thursday from Texas northward into Illinois.
- Cities at greatest risk of seeing strong to severe storms with damaging winds, large hail and a few tornadoes include Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth, Texas.
- Chicago, Little Rock, Milwaukee, Memphis and Corpus Christi, Texas could also see rough weather move through.
Yes, but: The National Weather Service does not expect a widespread tornado outbreak on Thursday.
Editor's note: This story was updated with additional context and new developments.