At least 2 dead after tornadoes strike Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, officials say
(CNN) — At least two people have been killed after tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas late Friday, damaging homes and knocking out power for thousands as officials launch search and rescue efforts.
The storms claimed lives in Oklahoma and Texas, according to officials.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an emergency declaration on Saturday for Bryan, Choctaw, LeFlore and McCurtain counties after damaging tornadoes blew through the state.
“The state stands ready to send all the help, support, and resources southeastern Oklahoma needs to recover and rebuild from this devastating storm. Oklahomans are strong and resilient. We will build back these homes and businesses,” Stitt said in a statement.
On Saturday morning, Stitt toured the city of Idabel, in McCurtain County in southeastern Oklahoma, which suffered significant storm damage.
More than 100 homes and businesses were destroyed due to the tornado, the governor said, and called the situation “heartbreaking” in a tweet.
“I will declare a state of emergency in affected counties to ensure these communities have support and resources from the state. Pray for all those affected,” Stitt said.
The string of tornadoes killed at least one person in Oklahoma, and the governor identified him as a 90-year-old man in Idabel, roughly 50 miles north of Texas.
The extreme weather event in Oklahoma “could have been a lot worse,” Stitt said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure our locals have all the support that they need,” he said. The governor said he saw the “Oklahoma standard” in full effect when he visited impacted areas Saturday, with people helping one another out and cleaning up.
Another person was killed in Texas, according to a Facebook post from Morris County Judge Doug Reeder.
Reeder didn’t provide details of the victim’s death but said that at least three separate tornadoes passed through Morris County, causing damage to several homes. Morris County is located near the Texas-Arkansas border.
In southeastern Oklahoma, ‘not good’
Late Friday, authorities were trying to determine the extent of damage and injuries, according to McCurtain County emergency manager Cody McDaniel. “It’s not good,” he said.
Stitt said search and rescue teams, along with generators, had been deployed to the Idabel area, and he added there was “additional flash flooding in some areas.” The storm has also united people, he said.
“What I saw was Oklahomans coming together. The storm went through last night, but they were already out, helping each other. We’re clearing limbs and debris,” Stitt said in a video message.
In Texas, near the border with Oklahoma, at least 50 homes were reported damaged or destroyed in Lamar County as of Friday evening, the sheriff’s office said.
More than 20,000 homes and businesses were without power across Arkansas, Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas as of Saturday evening, according to Poweroutage.us.
Tornado warnings had been in effect in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri on Friday night, meaning tornadoes were reported to be on the ground or indicated by weather radar. The weather service recommends residents in warning areas to move to a safe place such as a basement or interior room.
A preliminary accounting Friday evening from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center shows nine tornadoes formed in Texas, four in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.
Overnight tornadoes can be particularly dangerous because they can be hard to see as they move quickly through an area, and it’s also more challenging to ensure residents are warned during those hours.
Most of the reported Texas tornadoes occurred along the Red River border with Oklahoma, with widespread damage reported in two counties.
The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday a tornado moving 45 mph was detected over the city of Wrightsville in Pulaski County, Arkansas, just south of Little Rock.
The number of tornadoes recorded will likely increase Saturday, and the intensity of each one will not be known until local National Weather Service offices conduct damage surveys, which may take several days.
Tornado and severe thunderstorm watches for the region lasted until early Saturday morning.
Texas county declares disaster
Lamar County officials declared a disaster after at least 10 people were injured when a tornado tore through the area, according to a news release from the county’s sheriff’s office. No deaths have been reported.
Two of those injured suffered critical injuries, the sheriff’s office said. Earlier Friday, a first responder was injured during the storms in the county and underwent surgery, County Constable Steven Hill told CNN.
“There has been quite a bit of damage and some injuries,” Lamar County Constable Travis Rhodes told CNN Friday night.
In nearby Hopkins County, at least four houses were damaged Friday, according to the county’s sheriff’s office.
Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, a Choctaw County woman was injured by a falling tree as she was trying to get to a storm shelter, Lewis Collins, a volunteer at the Choctaw Office of Emergency Management, told CNN. It’s unclear whether a tornado had hit the area.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is urging residents to report storm damage online to help coordinate their response.
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