At least five killed, homes destroyed as storm sweeps across southern states, cleanup underway

PERRYTON, Texas (AP) — Sabrina Devers was watching what would have been a deadly storm approaching her ranch just north of the town of Perryton in the Panhandle, Texas, when the first I found hail the size of a golf ball, then a softball.

Then over the plateau to Perryton, the system triggered a tornado, Devers said.

After the Twister passed, Devers drove into town and found a wreckage road that local officials estimated was 400 meters (400 meters) wide and 1 mile (1.6 km) long. Thursday afternoon’s storm destroyed hundreds of homes, threw vehicles into buildings, knocked out power and cell phone service in Perryton, a town of 8,000 people about 115 miles (185 km) northeast of Amarillo. Three people were killed and more than 100 injured. , just south of the Oklahoma Line.

“The devastation was unbelievable,” Devers told Fox Weather. “I got in a tank truck and threw it into the pasture.”

The same system that slapped Perryton continues to wreak havoc as it marches through the Deep South, raining down the Florida Panhandle and blowing winds roaring through the Mississippi, as cleanup efforts take place in Texas on Friday. rice field. In total, the storm killed five people, three in Texas, one each in Florida and Mississippi.

Ochiltree General Hospital in Perryton has treated 115 patients with minor to severe injuries, including head injuries, collapsed lungs, lacerations and fractures, the medical center said on Facebook.

“We expected more people to show up last night, but we didn’t,” said Kelly Judith, the hospital’s interim chief executive officer. “We just want people in our community to know we are here. We are open. We are opening a clinic. i am ready.”

Those who had scheduled regular health checkups were asked to reschedule.

Judith said hospitals were running on generators and one doctor’s office had no windows, so some patients were being treated in a sunlit conference room.

Among those helping out at the hospital on Thursday was Dr. Mark Garnett, medical director of Majestic Laser Inc. on Main Street, who hitchhiked to the hospital after the tornado struck.

“People came out of the woodworking shop to help out and volunteer,” he said. “The response from the field has been amazing.”

Earlier Thursday, he and staff at a clinic on Main Street heard the rain and watched the lights flicker. They suspected that the tornado was passing north of Perryton instead of directly over it.

“We could hear the rain picking up a little more intensity, then we started hearing hail, and that’s when everyone’s cell phones rang with a tornado warning,” Garnett said.

He went to the door and found himself in the middle of a tornado. I could see trees and debris flying in the air. Garnett and her staff evacuated to the back of the clinic after the glass at the front door shattered.

After hearing the tornado passing by, Garnett walked out onto Main Street and was amazed at the level of debris and destruction.

“We were all wondering what happened and how he was still alive,” he said.

Perryton Fire Chief Paul Dutcher said he estimated between 150 and 200 homes in the area were destroyed, with many storefronts in the downtown area completely wiped out and buildings collapsed or partially collapsed. .

“It’s a real tragedy,” Mr. Dutcher said on NBC’s “Today.” “Everything behind me can be rebuilt. But the lives we lost are really the tragedy of everything.”

Tornado activity isn’t typical of this time of year, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, said Matt Mozier, a meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

“Thunderstorms are expected at this time of year,” Mosier said. “It’s not uncommon, but a lot of people don’t pay attention to tornadoes because they’re a little out of season for tornadoes.”

Mosier said the weather this week was very warm, wet and erratic, along with unusually strong windshear for this time of year.

At least one confirmed tornado ripped through Escambia County Thursday night in the Florida Panhandle, uprooting trees and killing one person, county spokesman Andy Gibson told the Pensacola News Journal. .

Flash floods have also been reported in Pensacola, with 12 to 16 inches of rain starting Thursday night, said Caitlin Baldwin, a meteorologist at Pensacola’s National Weather Service Mobile.

All 146 residents were evacuated in West Pensacola as flash floods surrounded an apartment complex. Some were removed by boat and taken to a local community center, said Davis Wood, a spokesman for Escambia County Public Safety. No injuries have been reported.

A man died in Mississippi early Friday morning after a tree fell during stormy weather. State Police Chief Osa Brown told WLBT Television that the man died after strong winds knocked a tree over his carport as he climbed into his car.

The storm system also brought hail and tornado potential to northwestern Ohio.

More than 536,000 customers lost power Friday afternoon in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to the website.

Meteorologist Brett Muscha said the National Weather Service in Amarillo was assessing damage Friday to determine the severity of the tornado in the Perryton area.

Musha said further thunderstorms are possible in the far north Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles on Friday afternoon and into the night. The Oklahoma side was most likely to produce a strong and violent storm, with golf-ball-sized hail and gusts of up to 100 kilometers per hour.

Southern states, including Texas and Louisiana, also issued heat advisories on Friday, with temperatures expected to reach nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) through the June 11 holiday weekend. Temperatures were expected to reach as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).

Earlier this week, as a powerful storm swept across the South from Texas to Georgia, strong winds knocked down trees, damaged buildings and blew cars off highways.


Brumfield reported from Washington DC and Miller reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press journalist Beatrice Dupuis in New York. Rick Callahan of Indianapolis. Robert Jabron of Los Angeles. Alina Hartounian of Phoenix. Lisa Baumann in Seattle. Michael Goldberg of Jackson, Mississippi. Juan Lozano of Houston and his Adam Kealoha Causey of Dallas contributed to this report. At least five killed, homes destroyed as storm sweeps across southern states, cleanup underway

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