Tornadoes hit Texas and Oklahoma with one fatality
In McCurtain County in southeastern Oklahoma, there was one death confirmed by County Emergency Manager Cody McDaniel. “The roads are still blocked, and we’re trying to get through to those places,” McDaniel told local news exit Fox 23 on Friday, adding that there was “one fatality in McCurtain County tonight.” He did not give more information about the death case.
U statement posted online early Saturday, county officials urged people to “stay away from damaged areas” and downed power lines in areas including Idabel, Broken Bow and Pickens. Teams of emergency services and experts were assessing the damage, going “block to block, house to house to make a detailed assessment,” the statement said. The Red Cross has set up a shelter in a local church for those displaced from their homes, it added.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) tweeted to “pray for Oklahomans affected” by the tornadoes, noting that severe storms have hit several counties, along with reports of flash flooding. In northeast Texas, at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in Lamar County, near the Oklahoma border, due to extreme weather, Sheriff Scott Cass’ office said in statement late on friday.
The tornado is said to have hit the region shortly after 4pm local time on Friday, affecting areas including Beaver Creek, Powderly, Hopewell and Caviness. No deaths have been reported, but 10 people are being treated at the Paris Regional Medical Center. Two of them were “critical but stable,” the statement said.
Prayers for Oklahomans affected by today’s tornado.
The storms hit Bryan, Choctaw and Le Flore counties, among others. Additional flash flooding in some areas.
Search and rescue teams and generators forwarded to the Idabela area.
Will continue to work diligently with @okem.
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) November 5, 2022
Teams will assess damage and assist with cleanup operations, the statement said, adding that Lamar County Judge Brandon Bell has declared an official disaster in the area, a procedural step toward obtaining federal aid and funding. His statement said “at least two dozen people were injured across the district,” the local Paris News and Associated Press reported.
One resident of rural Powderly in Lamar County said she took shelter in a closet with her boyfriend and cat during the tornado. “We felt the cold air, we felt the house shake, we heard the noise, and we felt the ceiling in the hallway we were in being vacuumed,” a woman named Tammy told Paris News, adding that property it suffered roof damage and broken windows. “The beautiful trees are gone,” she said. “It was terrifying. I was quite scared.”
In nearby Hopkins County, where the Texas town of Sulfur Springs is located, officials urged residents to evacuate amid reports of tornadoes, saying at least “four homes sustained damage,” but no injuries were reported late Friday.
Tornadoes formed along a cold front/dryline combination – or the boundary between cold, dry air coming in from the northwest and encroaching on a warm, moist Gulf of Mexico air mass that was trying to creep north. That clash produced strong to severe thunderstorms that were 40,000 to 50,000 feet high.
Meanwhile, winds that changed direction with height helped induce wind shear, which gave the storms rotation.
November tornado outbreaks do not occur as regularly as their spring counterparts, but they are not uncommon.
Color tracks across East Texas/Oklahoma in Ark-La-Tex show where strong rotational couplets were tracked (there were many rotating supercells). They don’t necessarily represent tornadoes, but there have been numerous touchdowns. #TXwx #ARwx #OKwx pic.twitter.com/1ztVZD4d9f
— Craig Ceecee (@CC_StormWatch) November 5, 2022
Early Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center took the unusual step of issuing a level 4 out of 5 “moderate risk” for severe weather. The red zone covered far northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma, and southwest Arkansas, including the cities of Paris, Tyler, and Hot Springs. Paris was later hit by a tornado, and Tyler and Hot Springs were at least partially placed under tornado warnings.
It is only the fourteenth time since 2002 that moderate risk has been announced in November, highlighting the relative rarity such a top event in the fall.
Forecasters’ confidence was initially shaky about the likelihood of tornadoes. Despite the superior “parameter space” or availability of ingredients—like CAPE, or juice, and wind shear, or spin—storm mode was a wild card. In other words, meteorologists didn’t know whether thunderstorms would quickly merge and disrupt, or whether a few discrete storm cells might establish themselves to fully engage the atmospheric instability. By early evening, a series of four or five major rotating supercells had established, and as they fed into the low-level jet, they became tornado factories.
- One rotating thunderstorm formed northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, strengthening around the evening commute as it moved northeast at 55 mph. It later hit the west side of Paris, Texas, then continued north and destroyed much of the town of Powderly. About twenty people were injured in the tornado and the declaration of disaster it was issued for Lamar County.
- Another rotating supercell paralleled its predecessor about 30 to 40 miles to the east. It first dropped a highly photogenic tornado near Sulfur Springs, Texas, about 55 miles east-northeast of Dallas off Interstate 30.
- It then continued to the northeast, producing a massive wedge tornado in the community of Clarksville, just over 40 miles north and east. That same storm then crossed the Red River into far southeastern Oklahoma and produced a devastating tornado that hit the town of Idabel, killing one person.
- The tornado hit at 6:50 p.m. The Oklahoma Mesonet weather station recorded wind gusts of 108.4 mph as the tornado blew through the city, although it is impossible to know which part of the tornado hit the sensor. The weather station also observed a sudden drop in air pressure followed by a sudden spike – signifying “missing” air in the center of the tornado’s vortex that triggers vacuum-like suction and creates strong winds. In addition, temperatures also dropped and humidity increased in the tornado’s wake, representing a trailing downdraft, or cold, precipitation-laden air on the backside of a tornado circulation.
Notice the sudden spike in wind – gusts up to 108 mph have been recorded!
Behind a tornado, the dew point rises and the air becomes saturated as temperatures cool in the cold air envelope. pic.twitter.com/g3VLJnnFSN
— MyRadar Weather (@MyRadarWX) November 5, 2022
- An additional tornadic supercell, again about 30 or 40 miles to the east, passed north of Daingerfield and then hit the city of Naples, Texas. She then crossed Highway 77 and paralleled 67 northeast as she drove the truck toward New Boston, where she flattened structures on the west side of town. Debris was lifted nearly 30,000 feet, suggesting a top EF3 or EF4 tornado with winds potentially in the 150 to 170 mph range.
- A dire “tornado emergency” has been issued for New Boston, Texas, and Ashdown, Ark., only the second tornado emergency ever issued during the month of November.
- Debris fell from the sky more than 10 miles ahead of the tornadic circulation, which was carried high enough in the sky to surf the jet stream downwind. A weather radar might spot an area of low “correlation coefficient” or jagged, irregular shapes in the atmosphere that are not commensurate with rain and hail. That was an indication of tornado debris.
Storms are formed as a result of a strong mid-level disturbance – a pocket of cold air, low pressure and rotation located in the jet stream. That trigger was ejected from New Mexico in the late morning hours before moving over the Texas Panhandle. Thunderstorms erupted along and ahead of the surface cold front, developing into a dynamic environment conducive to severe tornadoes.
Helier Cheung contributed to this report.
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