Deadly tornadoes hit Texas and Oklahoma, flatten buildings
Residents in northeastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma began assessing weather damage Saturday, working to recover and thankful to have survived after tornadoes tore through the region, killing at least two people, injuring others and leaving homes and buildings in ruins.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt visited the town of Idabel in order to assess the damage. He said on social media that all the homes had been searched and a 90-year-old man was killed. Keli Cain, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Emergency Management, said the man’s body was found at his home in the Pickens area of McCurtain County, about 36 miles north of Idabel.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol also reported a 6-year-old girl drowned and a 43-year-old man was missing after their vehicle was swept by water off a bridge near Stilwell, about 135 miles north of Idabel. Cain stated that the drowning was not officially attributed to the storm. The medical examiner will investigate.
A school, a hospital and a church were all destroyed in the small town of Idabel.
“There’s a lot of damage” in the town of about 7,000, Cain said. “There are well over 100 homes and businesses damaged from minor damage to totally destroyed. “
Saturday afternoon Stitt declared a state of emergency for McCurtain County, where Idabel is located, and neighboring Bryan, Choctaw and LeFlore counties.
The declaration is a step towards qualifying for federal assistance. It also allows state agencies to make purchases related to disaster-recovery without any restrictions on bidding. The National Weather Service reported that tornadoes were also reported in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
Morris County, Texas, Judge Doug Reeder said in a social media post that one person died as a result of a tornado in the far northeastern Texas County, offering no other details.
Reeder, and other county officials, did not immediately return calls for comment.
One community hit hard was Powderly, about 45 miles west of Idabel and about 120 miles northeast of Dallas. Idabel and Powderly are both near the Texas-Oklahoma border.
Shelbie Villalpando, 27, of Powderly, said she was eating dinner with her family Friday when tornado sirens prompted them to congregate first in their rented home’s hallways, then with her children, aged 5, 10 and 14, in the bathtub. “We had to lay over them because everything started going mad within two minutes of getting them into the bathtub,” Villalpando stated.
” I’ve never felt so scared,” she said. “I could hear glass breaking, and things shattering around. But when I got out of my bathroom, my heart and stomach sank because it was my children and it could have been worse. What if the bathroom had collapsed like everything else? We wouldn’t have been here. “
Terimaine Davis and his son were huddled in the bathtub until just before the tornado barreled through Friday, reducing their home in Powderly to a roofless, sagging heap.
“We left like five minutes before the tornado actually hit,” Davis, 33, told The Associated Press. “Me and my son were in our house in the bathtub and that was all that was left. “
A child’s car seat was found leaned against a grey Chevrolet sedan, with many windows broken. Lori Davis, Terimaine’s wife, gave Terimaine a basket of toiletries that she had found in the wreckage of their home.
Lori Davis stated that the couple and their three children did not have renter’s insurance and that none of their furniture survived. She said, “We’re going have to start from scratch.”
They hope to stay with their family until they find a place to call home.
” “The next few days seem like rough times,” Terimaine said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stated that damage assessments and recovery efforts are underway in northeast Texas. He encouraged residents to report any damage to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
” I have used all resources available to respond and recover,” Abbott stated in a statement. “I want to thank all the emergency management personnel and state employees for their quick response. “
Weather service meteorologist Bianca Garcia in Fort Worth said while peak severe weather season typically is in the spring, tornados occasionally develop in October, November, December and even January.
” Although it’s not common, Garcia said that it happens across the region. “
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