Today, a severe storm threat looms over 50 million people, while a Texas town recovers from the aftermath of a destructive tornado that claimed lives.
Severe weather conditions pose a significant threat to over 50 million individuals across a wide area of the United States on Friday. This comes just one day after destructive storms caused fatalities in Texas and Florida.
In Perryton, Texas, a devastating tornado tore through the town on Thursday, resulting in three casualties, according to the fire chief interviewed by CNN. The storm also caused injuries to approximately 100 people, who were subsequently hospitalized in the Texas Panhandle town. These injuries ranged from head wounds to abrasions, as reported by the interim CEO of Ochiltree General Hospital.
Escambia County officials in Florida reported one fatality when a person was trapped under a fallen tree that struck their home. The county, including Pensacola, experienced flash flooding emergencies overnight, leading to high water rescues. The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, reported this and mentioned the involvement of local rescuers.
Areas such as West Pensacola, Warrington, and Gulf Breeze faced ongoing “widespread and significant” flash flooding, causing numerous roadways to remain submerged and some structures to be inundated with water, as indicated by Escambia County Emergency Management.
In response to the rising water, nearly 150 residents of a Pensacola apartment complex were relocated to a community center for temporary shelter.
Warrington, located just south of Pensacola, received nearly a foot of rainfall within a three-hour period. Radar estimates suggest that as much as 16 inches of rain fell overnight, and further precipitation is expected on Friday. A flash flood watch remains in effect for the area until 7 p.m.
There is a level 2 of 5 slight risk of severe storms, which may affect the South, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern Plains regions. The areas at slight risk include Montgomery and Mobile in Alabama, Little Rock in Arkansas, Jackson in Mississippi, and Tallahassee in Florida. These regions could potentially experience large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes.
A level 1 of 5 marginal risk is present from South Dakota to Florida and in parts of the Mid-Atlantic. Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Denver, and Jacksonville are among the cities within the marginal risk area, where large hail and damaging winds are possible.
The tornado that struck Perryton caused significant damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure in the town of approximately 8,000 residents. The local fire department, EMS, and multiple mobile homes were among the structures affected, with several fire department trucks sustaining damage, according to Fire Chief Paul Dutcher.
Residents of Perryton, such as Jamie James, expressed their experiences during the storm, noting the suddenness of the tornado’s formation and the lack of warning sirens. Despite surviving the ordeal in her truck, James observed the destruction inflicted upon her city, emphasizing the strong community ties that exist among its residents.
Due to damage sustained by transmission and distribution lines, Xcel Energy shut off power facilities in Perryton for safety reasons. As a result, more than 220,000 homes and businesses in Texas, along with over 130,000 in neighboring Louisiana, experienced power outages. Power disruptions were also reported in Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has deployed state emergency resources to address the immediate life-safety needs in Perryton. The governor expressed readiness to provide additional resources as required throughout this severe weather event.
Surrounding areas, including Beaver County in Oklahoma and Stinnett in Texas, have dispatched fire, law enforcement, and EMS units to assist Perryton. Medical support was provided by nearby hospitals, where staff promptly attended to approximately 100 individuals affected by the tornado.
Multiple tornado reports were recorded on Thursday, with two in Texas, four in Oklahoma, and one in Michigan. The tornado in Perryton was the most significant among them.
The tornado’s path cut through various sections of Perryton, severely impacting residential, downtown, and industrial areas, as described by storm chaser Brian Emfinger. The northwest part of town, including a mobile home park, experienced the worst damage caused by the tornado.
Perryton High School provided shelter to around 300 individuals after the northeast side of the town encountered extensive damage. Cole Underwood, the school’s athletic director and football coach, expressed their willingness to support those who have lost everything, despite the lack of necessary resources readily available.
Representative Ronny Jackson, who represents Perryton, called for assistance in the community, urging individuals in the area to help their neighbors by providing essential supplies such as food, fuel, water, and generators.