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Deadly tornado rips through North Texas town, leaves "utter devastation"

Tornado levels nearly 200 homes in Texas town
Tornado levels nearly 200 homes in Texas town, leaves 3 dead 03:38

A tornado tore through the Texas Panhandle town of Perryton on Thursday, killing three people, injuring dozens more and causing widespread damage as another in a series of fierce storms carved its way through Southern states.

Local fire officials estimated that close to 200 homes in Perryton were either damaged or destroyed by the twister. 

Mobile homes were ripped apart and pickup trucks with shattered windshield were slammed against mounds of rubble in residential areas.

Perryton's downtown was walloped. About two blocks of businesses were heavily damaged, including an office supply store, a floral shop and a hair salon along the town's Main Street. A minivan was shoved into the outer wall of a theater.

Among the deceased victims was 11-year-old Matthew Ramirez. The other two victims were identified as Cindy Bransgrove and Becky Randall, who were killed at a print shop owned by Randall.

Severe Weather Texas
Debris covers a residential area in Perryton, Texas, on June 15, 2023, after a tornado struck the town. David Erickson / AP

Victor Munoz, who filmed the tornado just before it slammed into his home, was left picking up the debris from the damaged house Friday.

"The debris was like hail, it was just hitting and banging and ... everything breaking," Munoz told CBS News.

He rode out the tornado with his two brothers in their bathroom, praying his mother would make it home alive.

"I was worried about my mom," Munoz said. "I couldn't get my truck out or anything. And once I saw her alive, I gave her a big-ass hug. I was tearing up, I'm just glad she was alive." 

The National Weather Service in Amarillo confirmed that the tornado hit the Perryton area shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday.

With a few hours of daylight left after the storm passed through, broken windows were being boarded up.

The Perryton Fire Department asked that people "keep praying" for the city, saying it was "hit hard" and adding that the twister was on the ground for at least a mile and was a quarter-mile wide.

What's more, "The Fire Department took a direct hit, our trucks and ambulances are driveable!" the department exclaimed.

Alex Driggars, a reporter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, posted the footage to social media that showed the destruction to Perryton City Hall and the city's fire station.  

First responders from surrounding towns and cities and from neighboring Oklahoma descended on the town, which is home to more than 8,000 people and is located about 115 miles northeast of Amarillo, just south of the Oklahoma line. CBS Amarillo, Texas affiliate KFDA-TV said multiple agencies from throughout the Texas Panhandle responded to assist Perryton. 

Storm chaser Brian Emfinger told Fox Weather that he watched the twister move through a mobile home park, mangling trailers and uprooting trees.

"I had seen the tornado do some pretty serious destruction to the industrial part of town," he said. "Unfortunately, just west of there, there is just mobile home, after mobile home, after mobile home that is completely destroyed. There is significant damage."

Ochiltree General Hospital in Perryton said on Facebook, "Walking/wounded please go to the clinic. All others to the hospital ER."

The hospital also said an American Red Cross shelter had been set up at the Ochiltree County Expo Center.

"We got slammed" with patients, said Kelly Judice, the hospital's interim CEO.

"We have seen somewhere between 50 and 100 patients," Judice said, including about 10 in critical condition who were transferred to other hospitals.

Patients had minor to major trauma, ranging from "head injuries to collapsed lungs, lacerations, broken bones," she said.

Severe Weather Texas
Buildings and vehicles show damage after a tornado struck Perryton, Texas, on June 15, 2023. David Erickson / AP

 Chris Samples of local radio station KXDJ-FM said the station was running on auxiliary power.

"The whole city is out of power," he said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he had directed the state Division of Emergency Management to help with everything from traffic control to restoring water and other utilities, if needed.

Elsewhere in the Lone Star State, CBS Tyler, Texas affiliate KYTX-TV's Jesus Martinez tweeted images from New Diana:

The storms were part of a severe weather outbreak that slammed the South this week. 

In Pensacola, Florida, more than 200 people were rescued Thursday after flash floods stranded them in an apartment complex.

Escambia Fire Rescue confirmed a death in Pensacola due to a tree falling on a home, according to CBS Mobile, Alabama affiliate WKRG-TV.

In Mississippi a man died after a tree fell on him during stormy weather early Friday. Canton Police Chief Otha Brown told WLBT-TV the man was killed after high winds toppled a tree onto his carport as he was entering his car.  

More than 182,000 customers were still without electricity in Texas as of Friday evening, according to utility tracker Some 142,000 more had no power in Louisiana, and 95,000 homes and businesses were doing without electricity in Mississippi.

Also in Texas and southern states including Louisiana, heat advisories were in effect Friday and were forecast into the Juneteenth holiday weekend with temperatures hitting 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It was expected to feel as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  

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