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3 dead and dozens injured when tornado hits Texas city

More than 50 people were injured after a tornado called devastating struck Perryton, population 8,500. First responders from the state and region were sending help.
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At least three people were killed and more than 50 others were injured Thursday when a tornado struck the Texas Panhandle city of Perryton, officials said.

The tornado hit Perryton, which has a population of around 8,500, around 5:10 p.m., said Trent Hoffeditz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Amarillo.

Perryton Fire Chief Paul Dutcher said three people have been confirmed dead. A trailer park took a direct hit, he said.

The tornado caused "a lot of damage," especially to mobile homes and businesses, Ochiltree County Sheriff Terry Bouchard told NBC affiliate KAMR of Amarillo.

Perryton Texas Tornado
Debris covers a residential area in Perryton, Texas on Thursday.David Erickson / AP

“It basically came across the city of Perryton from the northwest to the southeast,” he told the station.

Two people were missing, he said.

Ochiltree General Hospital, which is in Perryton, said it had over 50 patients.

Injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to those more severe, and several patients in critical condition were transported to other hospitals, hospital spokesperson Amie Marrufo said.

Bouchard said about 56 people were treated at the hospital and released.

Video from a bystander showed damage in downtown Perryton, broken-off trees and damaged and destroyed homes, as well as at least one overturned truck.

A severe weather event in Perryton, Texas, on June 15, 2023.
Severe weather in Perryton, Texas, on Thursday.Courtesy Malissa Thomas

"Please keep the Perryton community in your prayers," state Rep. Four Price, who represents the area, said on social media.

"Many structures are damaged," Price said.

Power was out in the city, but generators were keeping water service operating, Mayor Kerry Symons said.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to send help, including road crews and engineers.

"We remain ready to quickly provide any additional resources needed over the course of this severe weather event," Abbott said in a statement. "I ask all Texans to join Cecilia and me in praying for our fellow Texans who have been impacted by this horrific storm. Stay safe, Texas.” 

Two Texas urban search and rescue groups, Texas A&M Task Force 1 and Task Force 2, were being sent to the area under the direction of the state Division of Emergency Management, Texas A&M spokesperson Merribeth Kahlich said.

Damage due to severe weather in Perryton, Texas on June 15, 2023.
Tornado damage in Perryton, Texas, on Thursday.Courtesy Balko Fire and Rescue

Forecasters believe a tornado struck the city based on video and photos. Its strength won’t be known until damage surveys are done, Hoffeditz said.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Perryton, and it later said a tornado had been confirmed north of the town.

Emergency managers and other officials in Hansford County, which is adjacent to Ochiltree County, where Perryton is, were paged, and they prepared to respond to a mass casualty or recovery event, said Hansford County Judge, or chief executive, Tim Glass.

The sheriff's office in nearby Hutchinson County was among the agencies that said they were traveling to the Perryton area to assist. The sheriff's office said on Facebook it was "a devastating tornado."

It was an unusually wet May in the Texas Panhandle, and moisture instability and lift helped create conditions for a thunderstorm, Hoffeditz said. An upper-level system also played a role.

"The environment was just primed for one to occur," Hoffeditz said. "It’s just unfortunate it hit a populated area like Perryton."

The tornado was reported Thursday as tornado watches covered northern and central Texas and a large part of Oklahoma because of severe weather moving through the region, according to the weather service.

By Thursday night, storms had left the Panhandle, the weather service in Amarillo said. Tornado watches remained for part of Texas that included the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Damage surveys will be conducted to determine the strength of the tornado and its rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, Hoffeditz said.