Categories: US

1 dead, dozens hurt as storms slam area

Tornadoes ripped through southeastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas on Friday, killing a 90-year-old man, injuring two dozen others and laying more than 100 homes and buildings in ruins.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt examined damage in the town of Idabel on Saturday, a day after storms destroyed a church, medical center and school.

In the small town of Idabel, Oklahoma, more than 100 homes and businesses were damaged, ranging from “minor damage to completely destroyed,” said Keli Cain, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Emergency Management.

On Saturday afternoon, Stitt declared a state of emergency for McCurtain County, where Idabel is located, and neighboring Bryan, Choctaw and LeFlore counties.

Trinity Baptist Church in Idabel was preparing to complete a new building when the storm tore up their sanctuary and flattened the shell of the new building next door, according to Rev. Don Myer.

The 250-member congregation would vote on whether or not to proceed with the final work to complete the building after Sunday service, Myer said.

“But we didn’t get to that. Every vote counts and we had one vote that trumps us all,” said Myer, 67. “We were on the brink of that. We were that close.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said damage assessments and recovery efforts were underway in northeast Texas and encouraged residents to report damage to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

“I have deployed all available resources to help respond and recover,” Abbott said in a statement. “Thank you to all of our hard-working state and local emergency personnel for their prompt response.”

The National Weather Service said tornadoes were also reported in Arkansas and a storm system on Friday could also hit Louisiana.

In Texas, authorities in Lamar County said at least 50 homes had been damaged or destroyed and 10 people were treated at a hospital, including two with critical injuries. No deaths were immediately reported.

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Judge Brandon Bell, the county’s most senior elected official, declared a disaster in the area, a step in getting federal aid and funding. According to Bell’s statement, at least two dozen people were injured across the province.

One community hardest hit was Powderly, about 75 miles west of Idabel and about 120 miles northeast of Dallas. Both Powderly and Idabel are near the Texas-Oklahoma border.

The Lamar County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management said a tornado made landfall shortly after 4 p.m. and moved northeast through the communities of Hopewell, Caviness, Beaver Creek and Powderly.

Randi Johnson, head of the Powderly Volunteer Fire Department, told The Paris News newspaper that she didn’t know anyone had been killed, but knew of injuries.

“It will take a long time to clear this up, but the community has come together,” Johnson said. “It’s really heartbreaking to watch.”

Churches opened their doors to serve as shelters for those whose homes were affected.

Earlier Friday, parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana were at risk from stormy conditions, including strong winds, hail and tornadoes Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

At least 10 million people in that area were placed under a tornado watch by the weather service. It too issued a sudden flood threat across parts of northeastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and western Arkansas.

In Arkansas, college homecoming events were canceled and high school football games were postponed due to the threat of severe weather.

Contributions: The Associated Press


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