- Updated: Monday, Nov. 7, 8:56 a.m.
Utility workers, law enforcement, fire department staff and other emergency responders continued their clean-up efforts and damage assessment on Sunday after a massive tornado left a 21-miles-long trail of destruction Friday afternoon, Nov. 4, through Lamar County and the Red River Valley region.
The preliminary rated EF 3 twister traveled, National Weather Service officials said, 21 miles northeast through Hopewell, Caviness and Beaver Creek before walloping the small rural community of Powderly, about 10 miles north of Paris.
County officials issued a statement late Friday night, stating 50 homes were destroyed or damaged and 10 people had been hospitalized at the Paris Regional Medical Center. No deaths had been reported in Lamar County as of 10:04 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5.
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that a total of two people had died, one in Texas and one in Oklahoma, as a result of the tornado.
On Saturday, Brian Murnahan, of the Red Cross, said help is available in Paris.
"As of this morning we had assisted a family of five with food and comfort kits at the shelter," Murnahan said in an email. "We are out delivering meal service in areas of need this afternoon and evening. We are also out talking to people to make sure they have what they need and to assist whenever possible."
On Friday night, Powderly Volunteer Fire Department Chief Randi Johnson said she was not aware of any deaths in the area, but said injuries had been reported to emergency responders.
Later that night, Johnson verified there were no deaths in Powderly and only five to six people reported being injured.
Johnson said neighborhoods from Gate 2 Road to 906 West and surrounding Arthur City received serious damage, and that many people would be displaced Friday night or longer.
"It’s going to take a long time to get this cleaned up, but the community came together,” Johnson said. “It’s really heartbreaking to see.”
Lamar County Sheriff Scott Cass said on Saturday that many factors were involved leading to less injuries and no deaths from the storm.
"First of all, the Good Lord protected folks and it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, most people were at work and we had enough daylight left to come behind and check homes and answer welfare checks," Cass explained.
Cass also commended school districts for an early release, which meant buses had made their routes before the storm struck
There have been no fatalities reported in Texas, and Cass said, "I think we are still at 10 injuries reported at the hospital from Lamar County with a couple of injuries coming in from the Fulbright storm in Red River County."
Several local churches opened doors Friday night to anyone needing a place to sleep or eat.
"We have shelters stood up but no one is in the shelters," Cass explained on Saturday.
Officials from the National Weather Service were on the ground in Lamar County on Saturday morning, assessing the impact of the storm. Utility crews and contracted line crews began flowing into the county Friday night, and on Saturday were restoring power in many locations.
Prior to the storm hitting, Cass said weather spotters were out and officials were watching a couple of different storms.
"We had one storm that went north of us into Oklahoma,” Cass said. “This storm was coming in with a dry line expected later in the day but matured quickly into a super cell that dropped this tornado at 4 o’clock (Friday)."
County declaration of disaster issued
According to a press release from county officials, Lamar County Judge Brandon Bell issued an official declaration of disaster for the county Friday evening, Nov. 4.
Per the statement, "at least two dozen people were injured around the county," and continuous rains which were still heavy at 8:05 p.m., Friday, had "caused significant damage to roadways and transportation routes beyond local resource's ability to repair and re-open in an effective manner to maintain the safety of Lamar County citizens and travelers."
A stretch of Lamar County Road 35940 was visited by a reporter from The Paris News in the minutes after the tornado struck the area.
One resident, who asked only her first name of Tammy be used, said while she'd been through tornados before being from Iowa, this one was very scary.
"It is CR 35940 in Powderly...my boyfriend was watching the news and I was in the closet because that is our tornado shelter," Tammy said. "He comes in with the cat, we just felt a rumble, we felt cold air and we felt the house shake and we heard noises and we felt the ceiling in the hall we were at sucked up."
Tammy said there was roof damage, shattered windows and torn up trees and bushes across her property.
"The two and a half acres of land, the beautiful trees are all gone," Tammy said. "It was terrifying. I was pretty scared, I'm not going to lie."
Whether or not there were any fatalities from the tornado is not known as of 6:48 p.m., however many witnesses described being in shock and having suffered minor injuries.
"We are still accessing that information, and we have no information to give at this time,” said Diane Nation, public information officer for Paris Regional Medical Center.
Resources for those affected
Gospel Lighthouse Pentecostal Church of God Pastor Chris Kelly said the Powderly church has opened its doors for those displaced by the tornado or without electricity. He said the church will be preparing meals for tonight, but it would be limited.
In addition to the Gospel Lighthouse church, The Lamar Ave Church of Christ has set up an emergency shelter for those that have been affected by the storm.
Paris officials asked the public on Friday for reduced water usage, however it was not known on Saturday if that warning was still in effect.
"As a temporary precaution during this time, the City of Paris requests that water users reduce their water usage until further notice," city officials wrote on Facebook Friday night.
The scenes of devastation were centered along a hundreds of yards wide swath of land west of State Highway 271.
Homes were destroyed, motor vehicles flipped and trees were torn asunder by the massive twister that struck the area sometime after 4 p.m.
Emergency officials flooded the area to begin rescue operations, going home to home and asking if anyone was inside.
People stood about the carnage, some in a daze, while others filmed the scene with cell phone cameras. One group of children walked around asking passerby if they'd seen a small brown dog.
Among the scenes witnessed by The Paris News staff were a group of men helping lead distraught horses from one ranch home. Boats parked on trailers for the winter were tossed about like toys behind the Dollar General Market off Hwy 271.
- Staff Writer Mary Madewell contributed to this article.