At least two people have been killed and dozens injured after tornadoes ripped through parts of Texas and Oklahoma, leaving homes and buildings in ruins.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said on Saturday that all the homes had been searched a day after the twisters tore through the area and that a 90-year-old man had been killed.
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Keli Cain, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Emergency Management, said the man’s body was found at his home in the Pickens area of McCurtain County, about 58km (36 miles) north of the hard-hit town of Idabel, Oklahoma.
In Texas, Morris County Judge Dough Reeder said in a social media post that one person died as a result of a tornado in the far northeastern area of the state, offering no other details.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol also reported a 6-year-old girl drowned and a 43-year-old man was missing after their vehicle was swept by water off a bridge near Stilwell, about 220km (135 miles) north of Idabel. The drowning has not been officially attributed to the storm and will be investigated by the medical examiner, officials said.
The Oklahoma governor has declared a state of emergency for McCurtain County, where Idabel is located, and neighbouring Bryan, Choctaw and LeFlore counties.
The declaration is a step in qualifying for federal assistance and funding and clears the way for state agencies to make disaster-recovery-related purchases without limits on bidding requirements.
“There was total destruction on the south and east sides of Idabel,” Steven Carter, an emergency management coordinator for McCurtain County, told the Texarkana Gazette.
Praying for Oklahomans impacted by today's tornadoes.
Storms hit in Bryan, Choctaw, and Le Flore counties, among others. Additional flash flooding in some areas.
Search & rescue teams and generators forwarded to the Idabel area.
Will continue to work diligently with @okem.
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) November 5, 2022
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said damage assessments and recovery efforts are 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. “I thank all of our hardworking state and local emergency management personnel for their swift response.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Darby in Tulsa said the far-reaching storm produced heavy rain in the Stilwell area at the time, approximately 100mm (4 inches).
Shelbie Villalpando, 27, of Powderly, Texas, said she was eating dinner with her family Friday when tornado sirens prompted them to congregate first in their rented home’s hallways, then with her children — aged 5, 10 and 14 — in the bathtub.
“Within two minutes of getting them in the bathtub, we had to lay over the kids because everything started going crazy,” Villalpando said.
“I’ve never been so terrified,” she said. “I could hear glass breaking and things shattering around, but whenever I got out of the bathroom, my heart and my stomach sank because I have kids and it could have been much worse. … What if our bathroom had caved in just like everything else? We wouldn’t be here.”
Terimaine Davis and his son were huddled in the bathtub until just before the tornado barreled through on Friday, reducing their home in Powderly to a roofless, sagging heap.
“We left like five minutes before the tornado actually hit,” Davis, 33, told The Associated Press news agency. “Me and my son were in the house in the tub and that was about the only thing left standing.”
Judge Brandon Bell, the highest elected official in Lamar County where Powderly is located, declared a disaster in that area. Bell’s declaration said at least two dozen people were injured across the county.
Powderly is about 70km (45 miles) west of Idabel and 190km (120 miles) northeast of Dallas, and both are near the Texas-Oklahoma border.
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas, confirmed three tornadoes — in Lamar, Henderson and Hopkins counties — on Friday night as a line of storms dropped rain and sporadic hail on the Dallas-Fort Worth area and continued to push eastward.
The weather service’s office in Shreveport, Louisiana, said it was assessing the damage in Oklahoma.
Weather service meteorologist Bianca Garcia in Fort Worth said while peak severe weather season typically is in the northern spring, tornados occasionally develop in October, November, December and even January.
“It’s not very common,” Garcia said, “but it does happen across our region.”