July 24, 2024


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Tornado devastates Texas Panhandle town, killing 3 and injuring dozens

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Buildings and vehicles show damage after a tornado struck Perryton, Texas, Thursday, June 15, 2023. (AP Photo/David Erickson)

PERRYTON, Texas (AP) — A tornado tore through the Texas Panhandle town of Perryton, killing three people, injuring dozens more and causing widespread damage as another series of fierce storms carved its way through Southern states.

The National Weather Service in Amarillo confirmed that a tornado hit the area shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday. Local officials said Thursday night that two people were missing.

Perryton Fire Chief Paul Dutcher said three people were killed, including at least one person who died in a mobile home park that took a “direct hit” from a tornado. Dutcher said at least 30 trailers were damaged or destroyed.

First responders from surrounding towns and cities and from neighboring Oklahoma descended on the town, which is home to more than 8,000 people and about 115 miles (185 kilometers) northeast of Amarillo, just south of the Oklahoma line.

Mobile homes were ripped apart and pickup trucks with shattered windshield were slammed against mounds of rubble in residential areas.

Perryton’s downtown also was walloped. About two blocks of businesses were heavily damaged, including an office supply store, a floral shop and a hair salon along the town’s Main Street. A minivan was shoved into the outer wall of a theater.

With a few hours of daylight left after the storm passed through, broken windows were being boarded up.

The Ochiltree County Sheriff’s Department said it would enforce a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. Friday because of downed power lines and other dangers that might not be visible in the dark.

Storm chaser Brian Emfinger told Fox Weather that he watched the twister move through a mobile home park, mangling trailers and uprooting trees.

“I had seen the tornado do some pretty serious destruction to the industrial part of town,” he said. “Unfortunately, just west of there, there is just mobile home, after mobile home, after mobile home that is completely destroyed.”

There was no immediate word on the tornado’s size or wind speeds, meteorologist Luigi Meccariello said.

About 475,000 customers were without electricity in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma as of Friday morning, according to the poweroutage.us website.

Ochiltree General Hospital in Perryton on Facebook said “Walking/wounded please go to the clinic. All others to the hospital ER.”

“We have seen somewhere between 50 and 100 patients,” said Kelly Judice, the hospital’s interim CEO. Those include about 10 people in critical condition who were transferred to other hospitals.

Patients had minor to major trauma, ranging from “head injuries to collapsed lungs, lacerations, broken bones,” she said.

The hospital also said an American Red Cross shelter had been set up at the Ochiltree County Expo Center.

Chris Samples of local radio station KXDJ-FM said the station was running on auxiliary power.

“The whole city is out of power,” he said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he had directed the state Division of Emergency Management to help with everything from traffic control to restoring water and other utilities, if needed.

By evening, the weather front was moving southeast across Oklahoma. On Friday, scattered strong to severe thunderstorms were forecast for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and some other states.

Elsewhere in Texas and other Southern states including Louisiana, heat advisories were in effect Friday and were forecast into the Juneteenth holiday weekend with temperatures reaching toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). It was expected to feel as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).

The storm system also brought hail and possible tornados to northwestern Ohio.

A barn was smashed and trees toppled in Sandusky County, Ohio, and power lines were downed in northern Toledo, leaving thousands without power. The weather service reported “a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado” over Bellevue and storms showing “signs of rotation” in other areas.

It was the second day in a row that powerful storms struck the U.S. On Wednesday, strong winds toppled trees, damaged buildings and blew cars off a highway from the eastern part of Texas to Georgia.

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