Perryton begins recovery after deadly tornado

A powerful and deadly tornado struck the Texas Panhandle city of Perryton on Thursday. The smell of natural gas surrounded residents as they used their hands to dig through the debris, looking for loved ones and salvaging what they could from the destruction.

The tornado took a direct shot to the town, leaving 3 people dead and dozens injured, according to the Booker Fire Department, one of the first crews on scene. At least two people were also considered missing after the storm.

Small wounds, cuts, lacerations and a few major head injuries were among the injuries of the 115 patients treated at Ochiltree General Hospital, according to Amie Marrufo, the hospital's spokeswoman.

"We've been very, very thankful for our local counties and hospitals for coming to our aid," she said. "We've been blessed for a lot of good help. Luckily, this small town comes together when we need to."

Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Friday for communities impacted by tornadoes that caused significant damage to homes and businesses in Ochiltree County on Thursday night.

The disaster declaration will further support recovery efforts in response to extensive damage in that area.

"Our hearts remain with the people of Perryton and all Texans impacted by last night's devastating tornadoes in the Panhandle," said Governor Abbott. "This disaster declaration for Ochiltree and Cass counties will help streamline the State of Texas' ability to help local officials recover and rebuild their communities. I ask all Texans to join Cecilia and me in prayer for the families grieving the loss of loved ones and those who were injured during this horrific storm. I also thank our emergency response personnel for their courage and dedication as they continue to work around the clock to help their fellow Texans recover this Father's Day weekend."

Gov. Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to deploy state emergency response resources to meet urgent life-safety needs in Perryton due to a tornado that impacted the community.

Additionally, at the Governor's request, TDEM has increased the readiness level of the Texas State Operations Center to Level II (Escalated Response) to support requests from local officials and coordinate state resources deployed Thursday.

The National Weather Service in Amarillo told High Plains Pundit that the tornado was an EF-3with maximum winds of 140 miles per hour. Based on the survey conducted today, the tornado was on the ground for 6.39 miles and the tornado was 880 yards wide.

The tornado hit about 5 p.m. in the northwestern part of town and traveled southeast to the other side of town, creating a path of destruction in its wake. 

Mobile homes were destroyed, as well as some home and businesses in its path. The local fire department was even hit by the tornado.

"Many lives were affected by this- that's for sure. And but, you know, I've done several tornado surveys in other parts of the country, and it's the same thing. Neighbors are helping neighbors and everybody from surrounding towns are here helping out. And even if it’s offering a bottle of water, to helping use chainsaws and haul away debris- it's what you would expect from folks in the South," said Joanne Culin, a warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS.

Congressman Ronny Jackson (TX-13) released the following statement after visiting Perryton on Friday:

“This morning, my family and members of my congressional staff joined me to visit Perryton to survey the aftermath of last night’s deadly tornado. We toured the wreckage and met with state and local officials to discuss steps forward. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, dozens were injured, and, tragically, lives were lost. Despite the wreckage, the Perryton community, local and state officials, and volunteers from across TX-13 came together to provide water, food, fuel, and generators to their neighbors in need. It will take weeks, even months, to rebuild. Please join us in praying for the people of Perryton during this unthinkable time.”

Shelters that were established in Perryton for those impacted by the storm as of Friday morning and supply outposts for those in the community included:

Perryton High School shelter, via Perryton Independent School District

The Ochiltree County EXPO Center shelter, via the Red Cross and Ochiltree General Hospital

Meals will be provided throughout the day at locations including:

The Ochiltree County EXPO Center

BrokenHorn Steakhouse

First National Bank

Phones, phone charging, water and snacks via the Perryton State Farm office

Disaster supplies and energy supplies such as gas cans, generators and batteries at the Perryton O’Reilly Auto Parts

An official with United Supermarkets said that it is not providing food on Friday as of 3 p.m.

United Supermarkets will be providing meals again on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Perryton location parking lot.

Disaster assistance resources and funds available for donation as of Friday morning included:

Perryton ISD, accepting supplies and money via a GoFundMe campaign;

The Perryton Community Worship Center is acting as a supply depot and accepting supply donations;

Texas Panhandle Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster accepting financial donations at any FirstBank Southwest location in Perryton, Booker, Pampa, Amarillo, or Hereford;

Global Empowerment Mission accepting disaster aid assistance;

Encounter Church accepting supplies donations at its location at 200 Tascosa Rd. in Amarillo until 12 p.m. on Friday;

The Amarillo Area Foundation announced that its Panhandle Disaster Relief Fund will also be used to assist with the recovery efforts in Perryton, and is still accepting donations; and

Shi Lee’s Barbecue & Soul Food Cafe is accepting clothing donations at its location at 1213 SW 3rd in Amarillo to be delivered to Perryton.

As of 1 p.m. on Friday, according to the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission, financial donations were the most encouraged for assisting in the Perryton community disaster response. Supply donations were also being accepted at the CWC, though officials noted that they had enough water.

James Myers, a teacher in Perrytown, said the local high school was turned into an emergency shelter after the storm. Water and food are available at the school and a donation drop off is up and running in Amarillo.

Myers said the damages are the worst on the northeast side of town.

"The tornado went right down our Main Street," Myers said. "It really rattled off very roughly on some neighborhoods and on some businesses down there. On the Northeast side of town there are businesses with everything destroyed."

Myers said the community is trying it’s best to stay afloat.

"We’re a local farmers community and yesterday was amazing to see farmers getting in their vehicles and driving down Main (street) and picking up debris," Myers said. "You saw people just flooding into town. This little town of 9,000 felt like a metropolitan area with all of the love we had."

Storm chaser Brian Emfinger is one of the first on the scene after a tornado hit Perryton, Texas. He said mobile home after home was flattened and one building is on fire.

Witnesses in the area reported storm victims being pulled from the rubble, and storm chasers were requesting ambulances respond to the town to help the injured.

"It looks like a bomb had gone off," said Perryton resident Sabrina Devers describing her now-unrecognizable town. "The residential areas, the mobile homes, are just gone. There’s severe devastation." 

Xcel Energy crews have restored power to 1,055 customers who lost power as a result of the tornadoes in Perryton on Thursday. There are still 3,402 who are without power.

Xcel officials said substation infrastructure is being restored to service and one of the damaged transmission lines serving Perryton has also been brought back online.

Crews are restoring power to people in groups as they repair distribution lines in the city.

Restoring power south of the damaged area and to the northeast of the storm track in order to get as many customers back in service as safely as possible is Xcel Energy's goal.

People impacted by the storm are encouraged to complete TDEM’s Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool (iSTAT) self-reporting damage survey to help emergency management officials understand the amount of damages that occurred during the recent severe weather and determine the state’s eligibility for various forms of federal disaster assistance. 

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