Valley under tornado watch through Thursday morning

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Updated at 9:01 p.m.

The National Weather Service in Brownsville has upgraded the tornado watch to a tornado warning, reporting “extreme” severity with an “extraordinary threat to life or property.”

The warning is in effect through 9:30 p.m. for southwestern Hidalgo County, and residents are urged to shelter in place.

The NWS issued the warning at 8:55 p.m. when a “severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over Pharr Civic Center, or over Pharr, moving west at 30 mph.”

“Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely,” the NWS said.

The storm was described as “dangerous” and will be near Mission, Palmview, Sharyland, South McAllen, Orangewood East, Zavala Elementary School, the McAllen Convention Center, Mission Fire Station Number 5, Granjero, and McAllen City Hall. Cesar Chavez Middle School, Abram-Perezville, and Guillermo Flores Elementary School are also in the path.

“Other locations impacted by this tornadic thunderstorm include Garza-Pena Elementary School, Boeye Reservoir, National Butterfly Center, Astroland Park, Boys And Girls Club Of Pharr, San Juan City Park, Palmview South, Spring Fest Park, Retama Park, and Kennedy Middle School,” the NWS said.

The National Weather Service Brownsville-Rio Grande Valley station issued a tornado watch for the Valley on Wednesday evening.

The watch covers Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, Starr and Brooks counties while stretching north and northwest to numerous other counties, and is in effect through 7 a.m. Thursday.

On Facebook, the NWS said rapidly developing smaller cells formed in the wake of persistent rains that are moving into the upper Valley and Rio Grande Plains.

Those smaller cells are producing short periods of torrential rainfall.

“Overnight, we expect much less coverage, especially away from the coast,” the post stated. “But there is an increasing threat for more local rotation in separate cells, so we’ll be watching for potential small ‘spin-up’ tornadoes through the night and into Thursday.”

In May 2023, a deadly tornado tore through Laguna Heights, injuring 11 and killing one person — the first tornado-related death since the 20th Century.

The tornado watch comes as Tropical Storm Alberto — the first of the year — makes its way into Mexico while bringing rain to South Texas.