Tornadoes, Heavy Rain, Hail Slam Texas

A tornado blew through a small central Texas community Saturday, damaging houses and injuring at least four people, authorities said.

The storm cut a wide swath east of Thornton, said Aubrey Briggs, mayor pro tem of the city of roughly 500 people about 36 miles southeast of Waco.

"It missed the city. It was pretty widespread and pretty destructive," Briggs said. "My sister-in-law saw it. She said it was just a red cloud. It must have been sucking dirt out of the ground."

The National Weather Service said several tornadoes blew through the state Saturday.

A command post was set up at a school in Thornton, where several people were treated for cuts and bruises and some were sent by ambulance to area hospitals, Briggs said. Four people were taken to Limestone Medical Center in nearby Groesbeck.

Storm damage was also reported near the central Texas town of Hico, about 68 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Authorities said some power lines were down.

"The funnel came down, it touched the ground and then it faded out," said Kyle Davault of Arlington, who was fishing nearby. "And we just kept watching it. It came back down again and touched again."

Strong winds damaged part of a hospital and knocked out power to several homes and businesses in the East Texas town of Atlanta.

Tom Crow, administrator at Atlanta Memorial Hospital, said a glass corridor connecting the hospital to administrative offices was destroyed by high winds.

"It just took the top off. It happened really, really fast," Crow said. "I drove around in town and I saw a couple of big trees, I mean big trees you can't get your arm around. They were knocked down."

The National Weather Service said the damage was apparently caused by a downburst that produced winds of 80 to 100 mph.

A downburst is a pocket of cold air that moves down from the upper reaches of a thunderstorm and spreads out in a fan-shaped pattern when it hits the ground.

Meanwhile, flash flood watches and warnings continue for dozens of counties in North and East Texas.

The sprawling storm system centered over North Texas, dumping heavy rain and spawning numerous thunderstorms. It should move out of the state by Sunday, forecasters said.