The tornado was spotted a little after 5:30 p.m., moving between Florence and Salado, the communities most affected by storm damage.
Officials with the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety said there were a lot of debris and power lines down on a roadway — FM 2843 — between Salado and Florence. The road was closed off, with only local traffic allowed.
Officials said well-built ranch-style homes were heavily damaged or destroyed.
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“If we have to stay out here all night, we’re not going to stop until everybody’s accounted for and everybody is safe, and then we’re going to definitely — the ones that have lost their homes or they’re not structurally sound — we’re going to find a place to put them,” said Sgt. Bryan Washko with Texas Highway Patrol.
KXAN weathercaster Jim Spencer said the city of Salado was lucky Tuesday evening, as the tornado was headed straight for the town but turned to the north, staying west of the community. The First Warning Weather team predicts the tornado could be of EF-2 or EF-3 strength.
People in the Hidden Springs subdivision, while not impacted by the tornado, were pounded by baseball-sized hail.
Residents off of FM 2843 and Cedar Valley Road said the area was “wiped off the map” from the tornado.
Law enforcement personnel from Temple, Killeen and Williamson County blocked off FM 2843 where glimpses of destroyed homes could be seen. They said they were also trying to contain a gas leak.
One homeowner in Florence said he was inside his home when he saw giant pieces of tin fly across his land and the tornado funnel.
“I was in my living room, saw a dust storm outside, I heard the wind, stuff hitting the windows, and I saw a large piece of tin go across the pasture,” recalled Zach Liveris. “It’s a little overwhelming.”
He said his home didn’t sustain as much damage as his neighbor’s home, where you could see walls blown out, showing a burgundy couch inside and insulation stuck in branches.
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“It was so dusty outside, I couldn’t even see the trees and the pasture from the house. It was just very intense winds,” Liveris said, adding that he’s glad everyone is safe.