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Officials survey fatality, damage across northeast Texas in wake of storms, tornadoes

Officials are surveying the damage left behind after severe storms battered northeast Texas on Friday with heavy rain, damaging winds and multiple tornadoes.

A tornado watch was issued for 36 Texas counties, including Dallas County, on Friday afternoon, but it extended all the way through Oklahoma and into parts of Arkansas before it expired at about 8 p.m.

In that time, numerous confirmed tornadoes touched down, including one over Point — 17 miles southeast of Greenville — as it headed toward Sulphur Springs. The storm system continued near East Texas cities of New Boston, Naples, Brookston and Paris.

One person died as a result of the storm in Morris County, which includes Naples, and several homes were damaged, County Judge Doug Reeder said in a Facebook post. One fatality also was confirmed in McCurtain County in Oklahoma, according to The Associated Press.

The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday afternoon that an EF3 tornado with winds up to 160 mph hit Lamar County, roughly 105 miles northeast of Dallas.

The Paris News said the twister caused “significant” damage to the county’s small rural community of Powderly, including a “miles-long trail of destruction,” according to the publication.

Officials said the tornado touched down shortly after 4 p.m. Friday. Its track was about 21 miles long, stretching into Oklahoma, they said.

At least 32 structures were destroyed and 41 have major damage, said Quincy Blount, the county’s emergency management coordinator at a news conference Saturday afternoon. Officials said no one remained unaccounted for, and at that time there were no reported deaths.

Blount said one of those injured was a volunteer firefighter who was responding to the station when her vehicle was hit by the tornado and she was ejected. She is in stable condition, Sheriff Scott Cass said.

Out of 13 people treated for injuries at Paris Regional Medical Center, two were admitted and three with serious — but not life-threatening — injuries were transferred for treatment in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, medical center CEO Steve Hyde said at the news conference.

Cass said support for the community was pouring in, and asked for prayers for those affected. He said that by Saturday morning numerous crews had arrived to help clean up and clear roads and that residents were “already starting to put their lives back together.”

“That’s resilience and that’s purpose,” Cass said.

Another tornado swept through Athens in Henderson County. The weather service classified it as an EF2, with winds up to 115 mph.

Additionally, the National Weather Service said a record amount of daily rainfall, coming in at 3.01 inches, was recorded at DFW Airport on Friday, breaking the previous record of 1.77 inches set in 1956.

Preliminary storm surveys are expected to continue throughout the weekend. Two teams were sent out to assess damage in Lamar and Henderson counties Saturday, the weather service said, and surveys will continue Sunday, with a team expected to evaluate Hopkins County.

Texans are being encouraged to report damage once the storm passes using the Individual State of Texas Assessment tool at damage.tdem.texas.gov.

To assist in the region’s recovery, Gov. Greg Abbott increased the readiness level of the Texas State Emergency Operations Center to a Level II on Friday, which activated state resources to support local emergency services, including directing the Texas Division of Emergency Management “to swiftly provide all necessary resources to protect our communities.”

About 9:15 p.m. Friday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said it sent crews, heavy equipment and sawyers throughout northeast Texas.

Those crews worked through the night in Lamar, Bowie, Cass, Red River and Morris counties, the forest service said, and personnel from outside northeast Texas arrived Saturday morning to “assist on saw teams, with heavy equipment, and logistical support.”

In the meantime, a dry and cool weekend will be followed by warmer, humid weather next week. While there is a slight chance of rain on Monday and again on Friday, “severe weather looks unlikely at this time,” the weather service said.

Here’s what NBC5′s latest forecast says:

  • SATURDAY: 68/48. Less humid with lots of sunshine.
  • SUNDAY: 77/53. Mostly sunny.
  • MONDAY: 80/65. Mostly cloudy, warm and breezy with a 30% chance of showers.
  • TUESDAY: 80/65. Partly cloudy, mild and breezy.
  • WEDNESDAY: 78/62. Partly cloudy.

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