Tornado touches down in northeast Austin

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Terri Bennett surveys the damage to her house and yard near Springdale north of 290 on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 in Austin, Texas, Buckets of rain and powerful winds that apparently spawned several tornadoes swept across Texas on Wednesday, forcing drivers to abandon cars on flooded roads but not dropping enough water to make up for a historic dry spell.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

While thunderstorms pounded through the neighborhoods surrounding UT, a tornado touched down in northeast Austin early Wednesday morning.

Members of the National Weather Service investigated the strength of the tornado Wednesday, which tore through a street called Happy Trail at approximately 3 a.m. in the Walnut Place neighborhood near Highway 290. No injuries were reported, according to Reuters. Destruction in the neighborhood ranged from foliage displacement to structural damage to homes. The northeast Austin tornado maintained an estimated width of 50 yards, although the size of a tornado is not factored into fujita scale rankings, which rate tornados from F0 to F6 based on the strength of wind involved in the storm and damage left behind.

Meteorologist Troy Kimmel, senior lecturer in the Department of Geography and the Environment, said he does not think the National Weather Service will rate the storm high on the fujita scale, Kimmel said although January is not known as tornado season in Texas, the possibility of one touching down during severe storms is not impossible.

“This isn’t the normal time of year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” Kimmel said. “This was a pretty dynamic system.”

Kimmel said the conditions created by the recent storm contained a lot of cloud lift and wind shear, which allows for cloud rotation and the possibility of funnel clouds. It is possible for tornadoes grow out of such conditions, Kimmel said.

Kimmel said the system that passed through Austin mostly created heavy rain, and Austin residents can expect less cloudy conditions during the course of the weekend.  

Printed on Thursday, January 26, 2012 as: Wild weather causes tornado in northeast Austin