IDABEL, OKLAHOMA (AP) – Residents in southeastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas began assessing weather damage on Saturday, working to recover and thankful to have survived after a storm stretching from Dallas to northwest Arkansas spawned tornadoes and produced flash flooding, killing at least two people, injuring others and leaving homes and buildings in ruins.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt went to the town of Idabel to see the damage. He said on social media that all the homes had been searched and a 90-year-old man was killed.
Keli Cain, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Emergency Management, said the man’s body was found at his home in the Pickens area of McCurtain County, about 58 kilometres north of Idabel.
Morris County, Texas Judge Doug Reeder said in a social media post that one person died as a result of a tornado in the far northeastern Texas County, offering no other details.
Reeder and other county officials did not immediately return phone calls for additional comment.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol also reported a six-year-old girl drowned and a 43-year-old man was missing after their vehicle was swept by water off a bridge near Stilwell, about 217 kilometres north of Idabel. The drowning has not been officially attributed to the storm and will be investigated by the medical examiner, Cain said.
Saturday afternoon Stitt declared a state of emergency for McCurtain County, where Idabel is located, and neighbouring Bryan, Choctaw and LeFlore counties.
The declaration is a step in qualifying for federal assistance and funding and clears the way for state agencies to make disaster-recovery related purchases without limits on bidding requirements.
Texas Governnor Greg Abbott said damage assessments and recovery efforts are under way in northeast Texas and encouraged residents to report damage to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
“I have deployed all available resources to help respond and recover,” Abbott said in a statement. “I thank all of our hardworking state and local emergency management personnel for their swift response.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Darby in Tulsa said the far-reaching storm produced heavy rain in the Stilwell area at the time, around 10.16 centimetres.
Idabel, a rural town of about 7,000 at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, saw extensive damage, Cain said.
“There are well over 100 homes and businesses damaged from minor damage to totally destroyed,” Cain said.