Tornado devastates Texas Panhandle town, killing 3 and injuring dozens
PERRYTON, Texas (AP) — A tornado ripped through the Texas Panhandle town of Perryton on Thursday, killing three people, injuring dozens more and causing widespread damage as another in a series of fierce storms carved its way through Southern states.
The National Weather Service in Amarillo confirmed that a tornado hit the area Thursday afternoon. Perryton Fire Chief Paul Dutcher told reporters that three people were killed in the storm.
He said at least one person was killed in a mobile home park that took a “direct hit” from a tornado. Dutcher said at least 30 trailers were damaged or destroyed. At 6 p.m., firefighters were rescuing people from the rubble.
First responders from surrounding areas and from 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.
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 is significant damage.”
There was no immediate word on the tornado’s size or wind speeds, meteorologist Luigi Meccariello said.
Nearly 50,000 customers were without electricity in Texas and Oklahoma, 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.”
The hospital also said an American Red Cross shelter had been set up at the Ochiltree County Expo Center.
“We got slammed” by patients, said Kelly Judice, the hospital’s interim CEO.
“We have seen somewhere between 50 and 100 patients,” Judice said, including about 10 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.
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. The weather service said a second round of storms would continue to move through that state and parts of Texas through the evening while the risk of severe weather, including tornados, remained for the metropolitan Oklahoma City area.
Elsewhere in Texas and other Southern states stretching to Florida, heat advisories were in effect Thursday 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.