Severe thunderstorms will continue to threaten parts of the south-central US on 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 “multiple are missing” in southeastern Oklahoma’s McCurtain County, which sustained extensive storm damage after a possible tornado touched down in the town of Idabel, according to county emergency manager Cody McDaniel.
Authorities were still trying to determine the extent of the damage and injuries Friday afternoon, he said, “it’s not good.”
At least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in Lamar County, Texas, near the state’s border with Oklahoma, as of Friday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said.
Several tornado warnings were in effect for Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri Friday night, meaning tornadoes were reported on the ground or indicated by weather radar. The weather service advises residents in warning areas to move to a safe place such as a basement or indoor room.
A preliminary tally Friday evening from the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center showed nine tornadoes spawned in Texas, four in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.
Nighttime tornadoes can be especially dangerous because they can be difficult to see as they move quickly through an area, and it is also more difficult to warn residents during these hours.
Additionally, more than 100,000 homes and businesses were without power in Arkansas, Louisiana, southeast Oklahoma and east Texas early Saturday, according to Poweroutage.us.
Most of the Texas tornadoes reported occurred along the Red River border with Oklahoma, and damage spread across both counties.
The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday that a tornado moving 45 mph was spotted in the Pulaski County, Arkansas town of Wrightsville, south of Little Rock.
The number of tornadoes recorded Saturday is likely to increase, and the intensity of each will not be known until damage surveys are completed by National Weather Service offices, which could take several days.
The sudden onset of cold weather was forecast to create the worst 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 until 4 a.m. Saturday.
Officials in Lamar County, Texas, declared a disaster after at least 10 people were injured when a tornado ripped through the area, according to a news release from the county sheriff’s office. No deaths have been reported.
Two of the injured suffered serious injuries, the sheriff’s office said. Earlier Friday, a first responder was injured in the storms in the county and underwent surgery, County Sheriff Steven Hill told CNN.
“There was a little bit of damage and some injuries,” Lamar County Sheriff Travis Rhodes told CNN Friday night.
In nearby Hopkins County, at least four homes were damaged Friday, according to the county sheriff’s office.
A woman from Choctaw County, Oklahoma was injured by a falling tree while trying to reach a storm shelter, Choctaw Office of Emergency Management volunteer Lewis Collins told CNN. It is unclear if a tornado occurred in the area.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt is praying for those affected by the tornadoes.
“The search and rescue teams and generators have been sent to the Idabel area,” he regretted. “The storm hit Bryan, Choctaw and Le Flore counties, among others. Additional flooding in some areas.’
It is the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security pushing residents to report storm damage online to help coordinate the response.