Severe thunderstorms will continue to threaten parts of the south-central US Saturday morning after a powerful system that spawned tornadoes moved across the region, damaging homes in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
At least one person was reported dead and there are “multiple missing” in McCurtain County in southeastern Oklahoma, which saw significant storm damage after a possible tornado hit the town of Idabel, according to county emergency manager Cody McDaniel.
Authorities are still trying to determine the extent of damages and injuries Friday evening, he said, adding, “It’s not good.”
In Texas near the state’s border with Oklahoma, at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in Lamar County as of Friday evening, the sheriff’s office said.
Multiple tornado warnings were in effect in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri Friday night, meaning tornadoes were reported to be on the ground or indicated by weather radar. The weather service recommends residents in warning areas to move to a safe like a basement or interior room.
A preliminary accounting Friday evening from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center shows nine tornadoes formed in Texas, four in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.
Overnight tornadoes can be particularly dangerous because they can be hard to see as they move quickly through an area, and it’s also more challenging to ensure residents are warned during those hours.
Plus, more than 100,000 homes and businesses were without power across Arkansas, Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas as of early Saturday, according to Poweroutage.us.
Most of the Texas tornadoes reported occurred along the Red River border with Oklahoma, with widespread damage reported in two counties.
The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday that a tornado moving 45 mph was detected over the city of Wrightsville in Pulaski County, Arkansas, just south of Little Rock.
The number of tornadoes recorded will likely increase Saturday, and the intensity of each one will not be known until local National Weather Service offices conduct damage surveys, which may take several days.
A sudden onset of cold weather amid unseasonably warm conditions had been forecast to create the biggest tornado threat the US has seen in more than five months.
A severe thunderstorm watch remains in effect for parts of eastern Arkansas, northwestern Mississippi and western Tennessee through 4 a.m. local time Saturday.
Officials in Lamar County, Texas, declared a disaster after at least 10 people were injured when a tornado tore through the area, according to a news release from the county’s sheriff’s office. No deaths have been reported.
Two of those injured suffered critical injuries, the sheriff’s office said. Earlier Friday, a first responder was injured during the storms in the county and underwent surgery, County Constable Steven Hill told CNN.
“There has been quite a bit of damage and some injuries,” Lamar County Constable Travis Rhodes told CNN Friday night.
In nearby Hopkins County, at least four houses were damaged Friday, according to the county’s sheriff’s office.
A woman in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, was injured by a falling tree as she was trying to get to a storm shelter, Lewis Collins, a volunteer at the Choctaw Office of Emergency Management, told CNN. It’s unclear whether a tornado had occurred in that area.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt he’s praying for those impacted by the tornadoes.
“Search & rescue teams and generators forwarded to the Idabel area,” he sad. “Storms hit in Bryan, Choctaw, and Le Flore counties, among others. Additional flash flooding in some areas.”
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is urging residents to report storm damage online to help coordinate their response.