At least four people have been killed in a small town in Texas after a line of severe storms produced multiple tornadoes in the Rolling Plains region in the north of the US state, local authorities said.
At least 10 people also were injured in Matador, a town of some 570 residents about 112km (70 miles) northeast of Lubbock, the Lubbock Fire Department said on Thursday.
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“The Town of Matador has experienced an unprecedented tornado bringing damaging winds to the town,” it said in a social media post.
The department later added that it was continuing to assist with search operations, using drones “in support of mapping efforts & damage assessment”.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Wednesday’s storms also produced softball-size hail and wind gusts topping 161 kilometres per hour (100 miles per hour) in other communities in north Texas.
That included Jayton, a small, rural town that also was under a tornado warning as the line moved southeast on Wednesday night.
There were widespread power outages across the Rolling Plains region.
“Our thoughts are with those dealing with the aftermath of last night’s tornado in Matador,” the National Weather Service (NWS) in Lubbock said in a tweet on Thursday.
It added that a “survey team” was heading to Matador to assess the damage.
A storm developed on Wednesday near Amarillo before striking the small town, said Matt Ziebel, senior forecaster with the NWS in Lubbock.
“That is certainly rare to see all at the same time, killer tornadoes, hurricane-force winds and softball-sized hail,” Ziebell said.
Wednesday “was definitely a rare combination of high-end wind shear and storms of extreme instability”, he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency.
Ziebell said thunderstorms were likely to continue on Thursday, but the risk of severe weather with tornadoes was unlikely.
Our hearts are heavy today following the tragic tornado that struck Matador, Texas last night.
Heidi and I are praying for all those impacted, especially the families of those who sadly lost loved ones in this unprecedented storm.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 22, 2023
In Matador, homes were damaged, buildings were flattened and power lines were snapped in half.
A restaurant’s walls were all knocked down, but the booths remained standing in what was called a “jaw-dropping” scene by Derek Delgado, a spokesman for Lubbock Fire Rescue.
“You would look on one side where we had a general merchandise store completely flattened to the ground but across the street, there’s a house that’s still standing and the vehicles haven’t even moved from the driveway,” Delgado told the AP.
Wednesday’s tornadoes came six days after a tornado left three people dead and more than 100 others injured in Perryton in the northern Texas Panhandle.
The storms are striking north Texas after large parts of the state experienced a blistering heatwave that saw record-high temperatures in some cities.
Scientists have said that climate change has led to the increased frequency of heatwaves and other extreme weather events.