Severe thunderstorms will continue to threaten parts of the southern US Saturday morning after a powerful tornado-causing system swept through the region, damaging homes in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
At least one person was reported dead and there are “several missing” in southeastern Oklahoma’s McCurtain County, which suffered 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 the damage and injuries Friday night, he said, adding: “It’s not good.”
In Texas, near the state border with Oklahoma, at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in Lamar County Friday night, the sheriff’s office said.
Multiple tornado warnings were in effect Friday night in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri, meaning tornadoes were on the ground or indicated by weather radar. The weather service advises residents in warning areas to go to a safe, such as a basement or indoor room.
A preliminary Friday night accounting from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center shows nine tornadoes formed in Texas, four in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.
Nighttime tornadoes can be especially dangerous because they can be difficult to see because they move quickly through an area, and it’s also more challenging to ensure residents are warned during those hours.
In addition, more than 100,000 homes and businesses were without power in Arkansas, Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas, according to Poweroutage.us.
Most of the reported tornadoes in Texas occurred along the Red River’s border with Oklahoma, with widespread damage reported in two counties.
The National Weather Service confirmed late Friday that a tornado traveling at 45 mph was detected over the town of Wrightsville in Pulaski County, Arkansas, just south of Little Rock.
The number of recorded tornadoes is likely to increase on Saturday, and the intensity of each tornado will not be known until local National Weather Service offices conduct damage investigations, which could take several days.
It had been predicted that a sudden onset of cold weather amid unusually warm conditions would create the worst tornado threat the US has seen in more than five months.
A severe thunderstorm will remain in effect for parts of eastern Arkansas, northwestern Mississippi and western Tennessee until 4 a.m. local time Saturday.
Officials in Lamar County, Texas, declared a disaster after at least 10 people were injured when a tornado swept through the area, according to a press 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 during storms in the county and underwent surgery, County Constable Steven Hill told CNN.
“There’s quite a bit of damage and some injuries,” Lamar County Constable Travis Rhodes told CNN on Friday night.
At least four homes in nearby Hopkins County were damaged Friday, according to the county sheriff’s office.
A woman in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, was injured by a falling tree while trying to get to a storm shelter, Lewis Collins, a volunteer with the Choctaw Office of Emergency Management, told CNN. It is not clear whether a tornado has occurred in that area.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt prays for those affected by the tornadoes.
“Search and rescue teams and generators forwarded to the Idabel area,” he said sadly. “Storms have occurred 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 insist on residents to report storm damage online to help coordinate their response.