Tornadoes tore through parts of Texas and Oklahoma on Friday, killing at least one person, injuring two dozen others and leaving dozens of homes and buildings in ruins.
The tornadoes hit McCurtain County, Oklahoma hard in the southeast corner of the state. Cody McDaniel, the county emergency manager, confirmed one death although he did not immediately provide details.
The small town of Idabel saw a church, medical center and school destroyed.
“There was total destruction on the south and east sides of Idabel,” Steven Carter, emergency management coordinator for McCurtain County, told the Texarkana Gazette.
Carter told the newspaper that people were still trapped Friday night.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said search and rescue teams and generators were being sent to the Idabel area.
“Praying for Oklahomans impacted by today’s tornadoes”, Stit tweeted.
Keli Cain of the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management said at least three other counties were also affected by storms, with flash flooding in some areas.
The National Weather Service said tornadoes were also reported in Texas and Arkansas, and a storm system was heading toward Louisiana.
In Texas, authorities in Lamar County said at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed and 10 people were treated in hospital, two seriously injured. No deaths were immediately reported.
Judge Brandon Bell, the county’s top elected official, declared a disaster in the area, a step to get federal aid and funding. Bell’s statement said at least two dozen people were injured throughout the county.
A hard-hit community was Powderly, about 45 miles west of Idabel and about 120 miles northeast of Dallas. Powderly and Idabel are close to the Texas-Oklahoma border.
The Lamar County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management said the tornado touched down shortly after 4 p.m. and traveled north-northeast through the communities of Hopewell, Caviness, Beaver Creek and Powderly.
Randi Johnson, chief of the Powderly Volunteer Fire Department, told The Paris News that she did not know anyone had been killed but was aware of injuries.
“It’s going to take a long time to clean this up, but the community has come together,” Johnson said. “It’s really heartbreaking to see.”
Churches opened their doors to serve as shelters for those whose homes were affected.
Earlier, parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana were at risk of stormy conditions including high winds, hail and tornadoes Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
At least 10 million people in this region have been placed on a tornado watch by the weather service. This too issued a flash flood threat in parts of northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma, and western Arkansas.
In Arkansas, college homecoming events were canceled and high school football games were delayed due to the threat of extreme weather.
Storms across the southern plains could trigger thunderstorms capable of developing tornadoes, according to Accuweather.
“Any thunderstorm hazard will be possible, including an isolated tornado or two, large hail as well as wind damage from a straight-line thunderstorm,” said Troy Kimmel, professor of meteorology at the University. from Texas, to the Austin-American Statesman, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.
Storms could also trigger power outages and cause property damage. In some extreme cases, they could pose a risk to life, Accuweather said.
Contribute: The Associated Press