23 people injured as damaging storms, tornadoes hit central Texas; more severe weather looms today in central US – USA TODAY

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Large swaths of the central U.S. were bracing for severe weather Wednesday after at least 23 people were injured Tuesday evening when a tornado hit central Texas.

The lower Mississippi Valley, the Midwest and lower Ohio Valley all faced a threat of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service

The storms are likely to be accompanied by damaging winds and “very large hail” up to baseball size, the weather service said.

A tornado watch was issued for parts of Arkansas, northern Louisiana and northeast Texas until 5 p.m. CDT. 

On Tuesday, 23 people were injured, including 12 who were hospitalized, after a confirmed tornado struck Salado, Texas, a rural town in Bell County, Bell County Judge David Blackburn said at a news conference

Blackburn said he was thankful no one died. “There’s not much left,” he said. “Large trees are uprooted and overturned and stripped; buildings really reduced to rubble in many locations. Power lines, power poles are scattered all over the place. It’s pretty devastating.”

Texas was still experiencing tens of thousands of power outages Wednesday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

Grapefruit-size hail also accompanied the tornado, which was part of a severe storm system stretching from Austin to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, local National Weather Service offices reported. Hail that measured up to 5.5 inches in diameter pelted the Salado area, surpassing the weather service’s hail reporting standards that only include hail up to 4.5 inches, according to AccuWeather.

The weather service urged residents to seek shelter Tuesday as the tornado barreled toward the town at 30 mph with “very strong rotation.” The weather service called the tornado “a life-threatening situation” and said hail and a “dangerous flash flood” were adding to the threat.

On Wednesday, the weather service said it began surveying damage in Texas’ Williamson and Bell counties.

Several other tornadoes were reported Tuesday night with reported damage stretching across several states, including Iowa, where at least two tornadoes were confirmed, according to the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network.

A confirmed tornado in Iowa tore through farmland near Gilmore City, Iowa, AccuWeather said. 

Tornadoes accompanied by hail also hit Arkansas near Bloomer, Charleston and Scranton, AccuWeather said. And several people were rescued in Bossier City, Louisiana, after storms toppled trees into homes, according to local media reports.

Farther to the north on Wednesday, a blizzard continued to rage in the northern Plains. “Travel will remain difficult to impossible, and widespread power outages and tree damage are expected,” the weather service said. “Significant impacts to livestock are also possible.” More than a foot of snow was reported in Bismarck, North Dakota.

The North Dakota Capitol, schools, government offices and interstates remained closed Wednesday.

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.