SALADO, Texas (KXAN) — A tornado touched down near the Williamson-Bell County line Tuesday evening, moving toward Salado where significant damage was reported to homes and businesses. Bell County Judge David Blackburn reported 23 people were injured, 12 of whom were hospitalized and one was in critical condition.
While the Williamson County portion of the storm’s track was rated as an EF-1 with 100 mph winds, the tornado peaked in intensity in Bell County as a high-end EF-3 with 165 mph winds. Had the tornado trekked across a busy I-35 or more populated nearby cities, the toll could have been catastrophic.
The tornado began east of SH-195, five miles northeast of Florence and trekked northeastward across the Bell County line. It was on the ground for 3.54 miles in Williamson County, then 13 miles in Bell County.
In Williamson County, tree damage was observed along Ramms Drive in Florence where several mature oak trees were uprooted. More tree damage was seen along CR 288 as the tornado headed for the county line. Along the border of Williamson and Bell Counties a mobile home was shifted off it’s foundation where oak trees were also damaged. The maximum width of the Williamson County portion of the tornado was 500 yards.
- 165 mph maximum winds
- 16.5 mile track
- 30+ minute duration
The tornado entered extreme southern Bell County north of the junction between Bell County Road 231 and FM 2843. Damage consistent with EF-0 intensity was observed in this area including damage to trees and outbuildings.
The tornado moved east-northeastward, intersecting FM 2843 where the damage to structures and trees became much more significant. In this area, National Weather Service survey teams found at least 10 structures showing damage consistent with a tornado of EF-2 or EF-3 intensity, with a small cluster of homes experiencing estimated peak winds of 150-165 mph. These structures had all or most of their roofs removed and some had most exterior walls collapsed.
Survey teams found two churches along FM 2843 near Buttermilk Road significantly damaged, with multiple walls collapsed and roofing material removed. Numerous cars in this area had significant damage consistent with being rolled or having projectiles thrown into them. Power poles were snapped and large trees were uprooted or snapped.
The tornado traveled another 1.5 miles east-northeastward beyond Buttermilk Road, then turned sharply northward. Tree damage was still observed in this area, but the scope and severity of damage decreased. The tornado crossed Crows Ranch Road and damaged aluminum roofing on a home.
The tornado then intensified over a ridge line before crossing FM 2484, uprooting many large trees and shifting a large barn’s walls. It also caused significant damage to a home in this area, almost entirely removing its roof and blowing two of four walls in. This was consistent with EF-2 intensity.
The tornado then moved into the South Shore neighborhood, then into Union Grove Park where it dissipated.