Texas Panhandle – On a fateful Thursday, the heavens unleashed their wrath upon a city Panhandle. A monstrous tornado, a harbinger of death and destruction, descended upon the city, claiming three lives and leaving dozens wounded. The cityscape was transformed into a canvas of chaos, as another wave of severe storms swept across the southern and central Plains.
The Eye of the Storm: Perryton, Texas
This is the scene in Perryton, TX where a tornado ripped through the town within the last hour. Our field crews are on the ground, helping people who were hit in the northern Texas town. They report extensive damage & fatalities. pic.twitter.com/VqthvbNbRu
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) June 15, 2023
The National Weather Service, stationed in Amarillo, Texas, confirmed the arrival of the tornado in Perryton, Texas, as evening fell. Perryton’s Fire Chief, Paul Dutcher, reported the tragic loss of three lives to the press. Luigi Meccariello, a weather service meteorologist, spoke of ongoing rescue efforts, painting a grim picture of the situation.
Storms Unleashed: A Day of Havoc
The day had been marked by violent weather across the South. The Storm Prediction Center had warned of severe storms, including damaging wind gusts, large hail, and the possibility of tornadoes. Hailstones, larger than two inches in diameter, and strong winds were expected to accompany the more intense parts of the fast-moving storm line.
Powerless Against Nature: The Aftermath
As night fell, the weather front moved southeast across Oklahoma. The weather service predicted a second round of storms for Oklahoma and parts of Texas. Poweroutage.us reported nearly 50,000 customers without electricity in Texas and Oklahoma, a testament to the storm’s power.
The Watchful Eye: Tornado Warnings
A tornado watch was issued for north Texas and much of Oklahoma, including the metro areas of Oklahoma City and Dallas/Ft. Worth. This meant that conditions were ripe for tornadoes to form, a chilling reminder of the storm’s potential.
The Southern Storm: Florida’s Fury
Meanwhile, in western Florida, a life was claimed when a tree fell on a home during severe thunderstorms and a confirmed tornado in Escambia County. The weather service warned of flooded roads across Pensacola, urging motorists to stay off the roadways.
The Day Before A Prelude to Destruction
The previous day, powerful storms had wreaked havoc across the South, from Texas to Georgia. Damaging winds, destructive hail, and a few tornadoes had caused extensive damage, toppling trees, damaging buildings, and blowing cars off highways. A man in Troup County, Georgia, was struck by lightning but survived with minor injuries.
The City in Ruins: Perryton’s Plight
Perryton officials confirmed the death of three people and the hospitalization of over 50 during a news conference on Thursday night. Ochiltree County Sheriff Terry Bouchard announced a curfew due to the widespread destruction and downed utility lines. Perryton, a city of nearly 8,300, received assistance from emergency personnel from nearby cities and counties.
State Response: Texas Steps In
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the deployment of several state resources, including the Division of Emergency Management, to meet the urgent needs in Perryton. Fire Chief Dutcher reported that at least 30 trailers were damaged or destroyed, and firefighters were rescuing residents from the rubble. A person was killed in a mobile home park that took a “direct hit” from the tornado.
Medical Response: The Hospital’s Role
Ochiltree General Hospital in Perryton advised walking wounded residents to go to the clinic, while others were directed to the hospital ER. The hospital’s interim CEO, Kelly Judice, reported that the hospital was overwhelmed with patients, including about 10 in critical condition who were transferred to other hospitals.
The Aftermath: A City in Darkness
Footage and images from the scene revealed a city in ruins, with flattened homes, downed trees, and power lines. Xcel Energy reported that the entire city was without power and facilities were de-energized for safety purposes. Wes Reeves, an Xcel spokesperson, stated that the restoration time was yet to be determined.
A Rare Occurrence: Perryton’s Tornado History
According to AccuWeather, this was the first tornado to track through Perryton since 2008, marking a rare and devastating event for the city.
The Forecast: A Stormy Future
7:00pm Oklahoma Storm update: two more likely powerful tornadoes in N Oklahoma near Cheyenne and Arnett, headed to Leedey, OK second powerful one is in Wilson, nearing Ardmore, and will then move on to Madill, and likely Bromide, OK. Stay alert people. These are very active… pic.twitter.com/BKI4y6W2yi
— DC-Meteorology (@The_extreme96) June 16, 2023
Much of Oklahoma was under a “moderate” risk for severe storms. The National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, warned of a “significant severe weather” outbreak. There was also the chance of a derecho forming across the region, a weather phenomenon that can pack lethal gusts in excess of 100 mph.
Beyond the Plains: The Wider Impact
In addition to the Plains, parts of the Southeast and Midwest were also under a severe threat. The Southeast faced additional chances for flash flooding and severe weather, while the Midwest had a “marginal” risk of severe weather.
The Coming Days: More Storms on the Horizon
The active weather was not expected to conclude on Thursday. Forecasters predicted another round of intense thunderstorms on Friday, with the potential for strong, damaging winds, large hail, frequent lightning, and localized tornadoes.
Heatwave: The Scorching South
A mid-June heat wave continued to scorch much of the South on Thursday, with the worst of the heat in south Texas. Heat advisories were in place in several cities in Texas and Louisiana. The heat wave was expected to continue into the next week, adding to the weather woes of the region.
Safety First: Weather Service’s Advice
The weather service urged residents and visitors to follow proper heat safety measures, such as staying hydrated, limiting time outdoors, and checking in on vulnerable individuals. As the region braced for more storms and heat, the importance of safety and preparedness was underscored.