Texas

Tornado In East Texas Leaves 3 Dead, Dozens Injured And Thousands Without Power

The National Weather Service was surveying the severity of the tornado, which left at least three people dead and more than 20 injured. But the coronavirus pandemic may complicate damage assessments.

Storm damage in Onalaska, Texas after a tornado ripped through on April 22, 2020.

At least three people were killed and more than 20 injured after a tornado tore through parts of East Texas on Wednesday evening. Search and rescue teams were still digging through the rubble overnight.

Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy issued a disaster declaration, and Gov. Greg Abbott said he has deployed state resources to help with the recovery.

Storms ripped through parts of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi as well. Overall, at least 6 people are reported dead and more than 100,000 left without power.

In Texas, damage was most apparent in Onalaska, a town of 3,000 people in Polk County about 75 miles north of Houston. The storm then tracked roughly 300 miles east across Louisiana and into Mississippi.

“It did significant damage. It did of course knock down trees, power lines, dozens of mobile homes were overturned,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Roeseler.

​The National Weather Service had not yet given the tornado a rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale, the system used to measure tornado severity. Survey teams will leave the Houston area for Onalaska around 8 a.m. Thursday, and Roeseler said he expects damage estimates by midday and a determination by midafternoon.

Surveying damage will be harder for the National Weather Service because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Team members will take multiple cars and space themselves apart, Roeseler told Houston Public Media. They will not be meeting with emergency officials in person to tour damage sites as they normally do.

“We’ll be asking where the sites are, going up and trying to find our way, and following them, and keeping our distance that way,” Roeseler said.

Polk County has reported 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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Davis Land

Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is Houston Public Media's senior news producer. He leads coverage for News 88.7's morning newscasts and coordinates between beat reporters, newscasters, and the Houston Matters team. Before joining Houston Public Media, Land produced for WBUR's newscast unit and Atlantic Public Media. His work has been heard on NPR's...

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