Tornadoes hit Texas and Oklahoma with one fatality reported

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Authorities in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas assessed damage early Saturday after tornadoes struck overnight, killing at least one person, injuring at least two dozen and damaging dozens of buildings, officials said.

Seventeen tornadoes were reported, but the number is expected to rise on Saturday as the extent of the damage becomes clear.

In McCurtain County in southeastern Oklahoma, one death has been confirmed by county emergency officer Cody McDaniel. “Roads are still blocked and we’re trying to cut in those places,” McDaniel told local news outlet Fox 23 on Friday, adding that there was “one fatality in McCurtain County tonight.” He did not provide further information about the death.

In a statement posted online early Saturday, county officials urged people to “stay clear of damaged areas” and downed power lines in areas such as Idabel, Broken Bow and Pickens. Teams of first responders and experts were assessing the damage, going “block by block, house by house to make a thorough assessment,” the statement said. The Red Cross has set up shelter in a local church for those displaced from their homes, she added.

Dangerous storms and the risk of “strong” tornadoes threaten Texas

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) tweeted that he was “praying for Oklahomans affected” by the tornadoes, noting that severe storms had hit several counties, with flash flooding also reported. In northeast Texas, at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in Lamar County, near the Oklahoma border, by the extreme weather, Sheriff Scott Cass’ office said in a statement Friday. evening.

He said the tornado hit the area just after 4 p.m. local time on Friday and impacted areas including Beaver Creek, Powderly, Hopewell and Caviness. No deaths were reported, but 10 people were being treated at the Paris Regional Medical Center. Two of them were “critical but stable,” the statement said.

Crews would assess the damage and assist with cleanup operations, the statement said, adding that Lamar County Judge Brandon Bell declared an official disaster in the area, a procedural step toward obtaining assistance and relief. federal funding. His statement said “at least two dozen people were injured in the county,” local publication Paris News and The Associated Press reported.

A rural resident of Powderly, Lamar County, said she took shelter in a closet with her boyfriend and her cat during the tornado. “We felt cold air, and we felt the house shaking, and we heard noises, and we felt the hall ceiling where we were being sucked in,” a woman named Tammy told the Paris News, adding that his property had undergone a roof. damage and broken windows. “The beautiful trees are all gone,” she said. “It was terrifying. I was scared enough.

In nearby Hopkins County, home to the Texas town of Sulfur Springs, officials urged residents to take shelter amid tornado reports, saying at least “four homes sustained damage,” but no injuries were reported on Friday evening.

The tornadoes formed along a combination cold front/dry line – or boundary between cool, dry air coming from the northwest and encroaching on a warm, moist air mass from the Gulf of Mexico that was tempting to move north. This clash brought strong to severe thunderstorms that were between 40,000 and 50,000 feet high.

Meanwhile, winds changing direction with height helped induce wind shear, which spun the storms.

November tornado outbreaks do not occur as regularly as their spring counterparts, but they are not uncommon.

Early Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center took the unusual step of announcing a 4 out of 5 level of “moderate risk” for severe weather. The red zone covered far northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas, including the cities of Paris, Tyler and Hot Springs. Paris was then struck by a tornado, and both Tyler and Hot Springs were at least partially included in tornado warnings.

It is only the fourteenth time since 2002 that a moderate risk has been issued in November, underlining the relative scarcity of such a high-end event in the fall.

Forecasters’ confidence was initially shaky about the likelihood of tornadoes. Despite high-end “parameter space” or the availability of ingredients — like CAPE, or juice, and wind shear, or spin — storm mode was a wildcard. In other words, meteorologists didn’t know if the thunderstorms would quickly merge and interfere, or if a few discrete thunderstorm cells could establish themselves to fully exploit the atmosphere’s volatility. By early evening, a chain of four or five main rotating supercells had established themselves, and as they tapped into the low-level jet stream, they became tornado factories.

  • A rotating thunderstorm established just northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, gaining strength on the evening commute as it moved northeast at 55 mph. It then struck the west side of Paris, Texas, then continued north and destroyed much of the town of Powderly. Two dozen people were injured by the tornado, and a disaster declaration was issued for Lamar County.
  • Another spinning supercell paralleled its predecessor about 30 to 40 miles to the east. It first dropped a highly photogenic tornado near Sulfur Springs, Texas, about 55 miles east-northeast of Dallas off Interstate 30.
    • Then it continued northeast, producing a massive wedge tornado in the community of Clarksville, just over 40 miles to the north and east. This same storm then crossed the Red River into far southeast Oklahoma and produced a devastating tornado that struck the town of Idabel, where one person died.
    • The tornado struck at 6:50 p.m. An Oklahoma Mesonet weather station recorded a wind gust of 108.4 mph as the tornado ripped through the city, although it is unclear which part of the tornado hit the sensor. The weather station also observed a steep drop in atmospheric pressure followed by a sudden rebound – signifying the “missing” air at the center of the tornado’s vortex that drives the vacuum-like inward suction and generates strong winds. Additionally, temperatures also dropped and humidity increased in the tornado’s wake, representing the trailing flank downdraft or envelopment of precipitation-laden cool air behind the tornado circulation.
  • An additional tornadic supercell, again about 30 or 40 miles to the east, passed north of Daingerfield and then hit the city of Naples, Texas. She then crossed Interstate 77 and paralleled 67 northeast as she headed toward New Boston, where she leveled structures. on the west side of town. The debris lifted nearly 30,000 feet, suggesting a high-end EF3 or EF4 tornado with winds potentially in the 150-170 mph range.
    • A dire “tornado emergency” has been issued for New Boston, Texas, and Ashdown, Ark., only the second tornado emergency ever issued during the month of November.
    • Debris fell from the sky more than 10 miles ahead of the tornadic circulation, having been carried high enough in the sky to ride the jet stream downwind. The weather radar could spot an area of ​​low “correlation coefficient” or jagged, irregular shapes in the atmosphere unrelated to rain and hail. It was an indicator of tornadic debris.

The storms formed from a powerful mid-level disturbance – a pocket of freezing, low-pressure, spinning air nestled in a trough in the jet stream. This trigger ejected from New Mexico in the late morning before passing over the Texas Panhandle. Thunderstorms erupted along and ahead of a surface cold front, developing into a dynamic environment conducive to strong tornadoes.

Helier Cheung contributed to this report.


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