Source: Isabel van Brugen

A major storm slammed Western and Central regions of the United States this week, bringing severe weather conditions, powerful winds, and snow.

By Monday, nearly 9 million people were under red flag warnings for dangerous fire weather conditions owing to powerful winds and dry conditions.

Tornado watches covered states from Texas and Iowa to Minnesota on Tuesday evening.

In Central Texas, Temple Fire Rescue Chief Mitch Randles told CNN a tornado struck south Bell County, close to the city of Salado, destroying trees and homes in its path.

There were reports of hailstones nearly 6 inches in length in Salado.

The weather service is expected to make assessments of damage in the coming days.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center on Wednesday issued level 4 out of 5 “moderate risk” of severe weather across the Mississippi Valley, noting “the potential for strong tornadoes and very large hail.”

In Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota, the National Weather Service issued blizzard, critical fire weather, and severe weather conditions.

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“Heavy snow and blizzard conditions will continue in parts of the Northern Plains. Severe thunderstorms capable of producing damaging wind gusts, large hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding are possible from the Mississippi River Valley into the Midwest,” the National Weather Service said.

The warning added, “Critical fire weather conditions will continue in portions of the Southern and Central High Plains into the Southwest.”

The North Dakota Capitol and other state facilities in the Bismarck area have been shuttered, as well as scores of schools, colleges, government offices, and highways.

Gov. Doug Burgum directed the state closures, noting that the Emergency Operations Center has been activated and is coordinating with partners and local emergency managers statewide to ensure that resources, including search and rescue, are available.

Up to two feet of snow is forecast through Thursday in the area. Locally, higher amounts up to 30 inches are possible.

“This is going to be historic for some areas,” said Jason Anglin, lead meteorologist for the weather service’s Bismarck office. “It’s going to be tough to travel, the impact to the ranching community is going to be big, even the impact to the power community—there’s going to be a lot of water in this snow; it could bring down trees and bring down power lines.”

The blizzard warning extended into eastern Montana and the northwestern corner of South Dakota. Several schools were closed in both states.