Politics

1 dead, dozens hurt as tornadoes hit Oklahoma and Texas


POWDERLY, Texas — Residents in northeastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma began assessing weather damage Saturday, working to recover and thankful to have survived after tornadoes tore through the region, killing at least one, injuring others and leaving homes and buildings in ruins.

McCurtain County, Oklahoma, in the southeastern corner of the state, was hard hit. Cody McDaniel, the county’s emergency manager, confirmed one death. On Saturday morning, Gov. Kevin Stitt said a 90-year-old man was killed.

The small town of Idabel saw a church, medical center and a school torn apart. Stitt was touring the damage there on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of damage,” in the town of about 7,000, state Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Keli Cain said. “There are well over 100 homes and businesses damaged from minor damage to totally destroyed.”

Cain said at least three other counties were also hit by storms, with flash flooding in some areas.

The National Weather Service said tornadoes also were reported in Texas and Arkansas.

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

Judge Brandon Bell, the county’s highest elected official, declared a disaster in the area, a step in getting federal assistance and funding. Bell’s declaration said at least two dozen people were injured across the county.

One community hit hard was Powderly, about 45 miles west of Idabel and about 120 miles northeast of Dallas. Both Powderly and Idabel are near the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Shelbie Villalpando, 27, of Powderly, 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 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. “Me and my son were in the house in the tub and that was about the only thing left standing.”

In their driveway Saturday morning, a child’s car seat leaned against a dented, grey Chevrolet sedan with several windows blown out. Around back, his wife, Lori Davis, handed Terimaine a basket of toiletries from inside the wreckage of their house.

The couple and the three kids who live with them did not have renter’s insurance, Lori Davis said, and none of their furniture survived. “We’re going to have to start from scratch,” she said.

They hope to stay with family until they can find a place to live.

“The next few days look like rough times,” Terimaine Davis said.

Weather service meteorologist Bianca Garcia in Fort Worth said while peak severe weather season typically is in the 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.”





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