Three children and one woman were killed Saturday in powerful storms that swept across the southern U.S., authorities said.
In Texas two children, ages 8 and 3, died when a tree fell on a car Saturday afternoon, trapping them inside, according to the Angelina County Sheriff’s Department. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
In West Monroe, Louisiana, a 13-year-old boy drowned in a drainage area in what officials believe was a weather-related incident, said Glen Springfield, spokesman for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office. Several streets had been closed in the city of around 13,000 and a flood warning had been issued for the area, officials said.
A fourth person who died in the storms was a woman killed by weather-related debris near the community of Weches in Houston County, Texas, the sheriff’s office said. The age of the woman was not released. Weches is west of Nacogdoches.
In Franklin, Texas, a tornado touched down and destroyed homes Saturday, injuring about a dozen people described as walking wounded and sending two people to the emergency room, Robertson County Sheriff Gerald Yezak said.
“A strip of homes on the other side of town over here are completely gone, just gone, everything is gone,” Robertson County Emergency Management Coordinator Billy Huggins said.
The National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office tweeted that after a preliminary damage assessment, the tornado in Robertson County was estimated to have a peak intensity of EF-3 with winds of 140 mph. The damage survey will continue over the next several days, the service said.
Huggins said he got a call from the National Weather Service around 11:20 a.m. about a storm system that was on the ground and headed towards Franklin. “We started trying to get people activated to get eyeballs on it, and by then the thing was moving fast and it went right through town,” he said.
The weather service said severe thunderstorms from east Texas to Arkansas were possible Saturday, and the threat of severe weather will then affect the Ohio Valley into the southeastern U.S. on Sunday.
Angelina County is around 120 miles north of Houston, and Franklin, a town of about 1,500, is about 110 miles northwest of Houston.
In Alto, Texas, Marry Lamar with the volunteer fire department said a suspected tornado touched down Saturday, and several people were injured. The front wall of a gym at a school was blown off as were windows and doors at a fire house, Lamar said.
Video posted on social media showed trees and power lines down and homes damaged in the town of just over 1,200 people.
Meteorologist John Moore said a possible twister touched down Saturday in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, area, the Associated Press reported. No injuries were reported, but officials said several businesses and vehicles were damaged.
Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told NBC affiliate WLBT the storms “just came in all at once” with heavy winds and rain.
“It was like it was a war zone; I’ve never seen nothing like it my life,” Flaggs told the station.
“It looked like everyone was safe,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. We’ve been blessed. What we’re going to do now is begin to recover.”
He said power crews were working to restore electricity to around 1,700 customers, and he asked people to not panic and to use caution when using alternate power sources like generators.
A meteorologist with Alabama’s emergency management agency warned that “supercells and potential tornadoes” could enter the western part of the state Sunday.
“Unfortunately, the western half of the state may have a few tornadoes before sunrise while many people are in bed,” meteorologist Jim Stefkovich said in a statement.
In Roberston County, Texas, the damage in Franklin was called “devastating” by Huggins, the emergency management coordinator. He said that everyone has been accounted for.
“To this small town of Franklin, it’s very devastating, how we’re going to get people help to restore their homes that don’t have insurance or what have you, it’s going to be pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s going to be a little difficult putting it back together, but we’ll do it.”
(Reporting by NBC News)
Tornado Kills 2, Injures Dozens In Oklahoma
EL RENO, Okla. (AP) — A tornado leveled a motel and tore through a mobile home park near Oklahoma City overnight, killing two people and injuring at least 29 others, authorities said Sunday.
The twister touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, late Saturday night. It crossed an interstate and walloped the American Budget Value Inn before ripping through the Skyview Estates trailer park, flipping and leveling homes, Mayor Matt White said at a news conference.
“It’s a tragic scene out there,” White said, adding later that, “People have absolutely lost everything.” He said the city established a gofundme site, the City of El Reno Tornado Relief Fund, to raise money to help affected families.
The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, White said. Everyone at the motel was accounted for, but searchers were still going through the mobile home park. Many of the people living there are Hispanic and don’t speak English, which has complicated the rescue efforts, he said.
The 29 people who were injured were taken to hospitals, where some were undergoing surgery, the mayor said. Some of the injuries were deemed critical, he said.
“The thing about El Reno is we are more than a community, we are a family. … We’re going to overcome this. It’s so devastating to see the loss out there,” he said.
April Sandefer, a spokeswoman for the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, said the hospital has treated 13 patients who were injured during the tornado. She declined to disclose the severity of the injuries or to say how many of the patients, if any, were admitted.
National Weather Service personnel were assessing the damage, but the agency gave the twister a preliminary EF-2 rating, which would mean it had wind speeds of 111-135 mph (179-217 kph).
White didn’t give details about the two people who were killed.
The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm system that rolled through the state — the latest in a week of violent storms to hit the flood-weary Plains and Midwest that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths, including the two killed in El Reno.
Emergency crews on Sunday could be seen sifting through the rubble at the trailer park and motel, where the second story collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and parking lot.
Tweety Garrison, 63, told the AP that she was in her mobile home with her husband, two young grandchildren and a family friend when the storm hit. She said when she heard the storm coming she immediately hit the ground. Moments later, she heard her next-door neighbor’s mobile home slam into hers before it flipped over and landed on her roof.
Garrison said the incident lasted five to 10 minutes and that she received a tornado warning on her phone but the sirens didn’t go off until after the twister hit.
Her 32-year-old son, Elton Garrison, said he heard the wailing tornado sirens and had just laid down at home about a half-mile (1 kilometer) away when his phone rang. He recognized his mother’s number, but there was no voice on the other end when he answered. “I thought, ‘That’s weird,’” he said.
Then his mother called back, and delivered a chilling message: “We’re trapped.”
He said when he arrived at his parent’s home, he found it blocked by debris and sitting with another trailer on top of it. He immediately began clearing a path to the home so that he could eventually lift a portion of an outside wall just enough so that all five occupants could slip beneath it and escape.
“My parents were in there and two of my kids, one 9 and the other 12 … my main emotion was fear,” said Elton Garrison, who has lived in El Reno for about 26 years. “I couldn’t get them out of there quick enough.”
He said he wasn’t alarmed by the warning sirens when he first heard them at home.
“We hear them all the time here, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. … I heard a lot of rain with the wind. But when it kind of got calm all of a sudden, that’s when it didn’t feel right.”
He said his parents had only recently recovered after losing their previous home to a fire a few years ago.
“Now this,” he said, before expressing gratitude that everyone inside his parents’ home had emerged without serious injury.
In the next breath, he added: “Items can be replaced. Lives can’t.”
The storm is the latest to hit the flood-weary central U.S. and dumped yet more rain in the region’s already bloated waterways. In Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city, authorities advised residents of some neighborhoods on Sunday to consider leaving for higher ground because the Arkansas River is stressing the city’s old levee system.
Downriver and about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa in Arkansas’ second-largest city, Fort Smith, authorities said Saturday that 100 to 200 people had already evacuated their homes due to flooding, which was expected to get worse in the coming days.
Missouri Tornado Kills Three, Just After ‘Shelter Now’ Tweeted
Tornadoes ripped through Missouri late Thursday, killing three people in the state capital, injuring nine and causing extensive damage.
Twisters have swept across the Great Plains and Midwest over the past several days, along with violent thunderstorms that have led to widespread flooding and kept farmers from planting fields. A tornado watch, meaning the storms could form at any time, extends from central Missouri into southern Illinois, the National Weather Service said.
About 43,000 people live in Jefferson City, the capital city located on the banks of the Missouri River. Just before the tornado struck, the National Weather Service tweeted out a warning “violent tornado confirmed — shelter now!” at 11:47 p.m.
“We have damage to state buildings and power is down in some areas,” Governor Mike Parson said in a tweet Thursday. “We’re doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage.”
(Reporting by Bloomberg)
At Least 1 Injured When Tornado Strikes Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — At least one person was injured and about a dozen homes were damaged when a tornado touched down near Tulsa International Airport.
Tulsa Area Emergency Management spokeswoman Kim MacLeod says one man was rescued from beneath a tree that was blown onto a home during the Tuesday morning twister.
MacLeod said the extent of the man’s injuries was not immediately known and that damage assessments are ongoing.
Airport spokesman Andrew Pierini said there was no damage at the airport, approximately 4 miles (6 kilometers) from where the tornado touched down, but passengers were moved into shelters for about 30 minutes.
The tornado comes as part of a powerful storm system that spawned dozens of tornado sightings Monday and caused significant flash flooding in parts of Oklahoma. The stormy weather is expected to continue Tuesday in eastern Oklahoma before moving into Arkansas, Missouri and western Illinois.
Officials say there was at least minor damage, but no injuries reported when a tornado touched down near Tulsa International Airport.
Much of Kansas remains under flood warnings or watches as heavy rains are expected to push streams and rivers out of their banks.
The National Weather Service says more than 3.5 inches of rain fell onto already-saturated ground in parts of Kansas Monday and overnight, and more is expected Tuesday.
New Cambria, a central Kansas town near Salina, asked residents on Monday to voluntarily evacuate for up to 48 hours. Officials say Saline County faces the potential for record flooding along Mulberry Creek near Salina and Smoky Hill River near New Cambria.
Pittsburg officials say an apparent tornado touched down south of the city Monday afternoon, damaging outbuildings and knocking down power lines and trees. Roof damage was also reported to Grubbs Hall at Pittsburg State University. No injuries were reported.
A powerful storm system that spawned dozens of tornado sightings is now causing significant flash flooding in parts of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation shut down Interstate 40 in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City, because of high water Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service says up to 5 inches of rain has fallen since Monday.
In Stillwater, emergency responders were rescuing people from their homes because of high water.
The Storm Prediction Center had warned of an unusually high risk for severe weather Monday for parts of Oklahoma and Texas. Damage was reported in many areas, including the town of Mangum, but no deaths have been reported.
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