Damaging storms, icy conditions hit Texas

At least 10 homes, several businesses and the San Marcos Police Department’s headquarters were damaged Saturday as a large storm brought a mix of heavy rain, strong winds and ice across a large swath of Texas.

The storm blew out windows and collapsed a wall at the police department building, and ripped the roofs off of nearby homes and businesses, said Melissa Millecam, communications manager for the city. No injuries in the city some 30 miles south of Austin were reported, however.

The same storm on Saturday morning toppled power lines along Interstate 35, closing the busy north-south highway for three hours while crews removed the fallen lines, Millecam added.

“It’s a good bit of damage,” she said. “It’s still stormy and we’ve got power outages in different places.”

It was unclear if the damage was caused by a tornado or straight line winds. Millecam said several witnesses had reported seeing a funnel cloud.

But Bob Fogarty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Braunfels, said early reports indicated the destruction was caused by strong winds, not a tornado. A weather service official was in San Marcos trying to make a final determination, he added.

Across Central Texas, meanwhile, there were widespread reports of high water rescues and flooding after more than 6 inches of rain fell in some spots.

Lt. Matt Cox of the Austin Fire Department said firefighters pulled a homeless man from the section of Waller Creek that runs through downtown Friday morning. Although the man was not seriously injured, he told rescuers he had gone into the water to try to help a woman he had seen struggling in the water.

Cox said the department launched boats and deployed searchers along the creek down to its confluence with the Colorado River, but they saw no sign of the woman.

Cox said he believes the woman may have been able to escape the creek, and he disputed claims that the woman was presumed dead. He said the department had helped close down dozens of roads throughout town and was assisting in many minor rescues.

An ice storm warning was in effect until Monday morning for much of North Texas, including Dallas and Fort Worth, where residents braced for a slick mixture of sleet, freezing rain and snow.

About 300 flights had been canceled so far Saturday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, spokesman David Magana said. He said crews had begun deicing airplanes before takeoff, creating further delays.

TXU Electric Delivery, which serves power to more than 3 million homes and businesses, said no outages had been reported so far, spokeswoman Carol Peters said. But she said additional work crews would be on standby for the storm’s duration.