EF-3 tornado damage found after 3 killed in Polk Co., weather service says

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Thursday, April 23, 2020
Skyeye video shows incredible damage of Onalaska tornado
Skyeye video shows incredible damage of Onalaska tornado

POLK COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Hours after originally designating a deadly tornado in Polk County as an EF-2, new damage found by a survey team prompted the National Weather Service to preliminarily upgrade it to EF-3.

While the designation isn't finalized yet by the NWS, the survey team confirmed finding damage in the Paradise Acres subdivision that was consistent with an EF-3 tornado, which is defined as severe damage from sustained winds between 136 and 165 mph.

The NWS said the team identified a track from the Waterford Marina area on the west side of Lake Livingston to southwest of Barney in Polk County.

"Most of the damage in and around Onalaska was rated EF1 and EF2," the NWS stated, adding "low end EF3 damage" in the Paradise Acres subdivision had estimated winds of around 140 mph.

"The remainder of the track consisted of damage generally EF1 to low end EF2," the weather service concluded.

Three people were killed and dozens were injured as the massive twister ripped through neighborhoods and traveled nearly 150 miles into Louisiana before finally dissipating.

A woman in her 20's, a man in his 50's and another man, whose age was not known, were identified Thursday morning by Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.

First responders continued to look for victims amid the rubble midday Thursday, around 15 hours after the twister tore through the region. Thirty three people were injured in the storm as debris was sent flying at high velocities as it moved to the east.

Search and rescue crews were still looking for victims more than 12 hours after the tornado hit the town of Onalaska, according to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.

RELATED: Drone video shows the jaw-dropping tornado destruction

The damaging tornado touched down just north of Lake Livingston in Walker County Wednesday evening.

According to Polk County Office of Emergency Management, the hardest hit areas were in the subdivisions of Yaupon Cove, Texas Acres, Canyon Park, Tree Farm Tracks, Kickapoo Estate, Triple Creek, Rocky Creek, Pine Harbor, Paradise Acres 1, 2 & 3, and Creekside.

In the video below, an ABC13 viewer captured the tornado as he was driving on Highway 59 near Seven Oaks, just east of Onalaska.

Onalaska resident Ashley Dreahn also captured video of the twister.

"I actually was on a group chat with friends, and I was just showing them that that it was just a dark sky. We had a storm pass through a few days ago, kind of the same situation, watching the news alerts. I thought, 'You know, we're south or it's very bottom. We'll be okay.' And it was during that video I was filming, like, a little 32 second clip, I realized it was a tornado," Dreahn explained.

Those needing shelter were being asked to go to the Dunbar Gym 15 miles away in Livingston for shelter services due to power outages across Onalaska. Shelters were also established at the Onalaska Junior and Senior High Schools.

A survey team with the National Weather Service was scheduled to review the extent of the damage and determine the intensity of the the tornado.

Gov. Greg Abbott released the following statement following reports of the storm damage.

"My office, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and other state agencies are working with local officials to provide immediate support to the areas devastated by this tornado," said Abbott. "The state has already deployed response teams and medical resources to help Texans in need and to provide assistance to these communities. Our hearts are with our fellow Texans tonight and the state will continue to do everything it can to support those affected by this severe weather."

This is a look at some of the damage left behind after a twister cut a path through Polk County.

Before the storm hit, many families say they had just seconds to seek shelter.

"We were in the eye because it got, all of a sudden, really calm. We figured we could get in the truck and get away from here, and then all of a sudden here it came," said resident John Fuller. "Limb hit my truck, tore it up. I just bought the thing."

Among the destruction, a dog was seen in the rubble after trying to find shelter in a dryer. Officers say the dog's owner was found but is in critical condition.

According to the ABC13 weather team, the last time a deadly tornado hit Southeast Texas was in Tomball in April 2016.

More than 1,700 people live within the city of Onalaska. It's the second biggest city in Polk County, after Livingston.

RAW VIDEO: SkyEye shows aftermath of deadly tornado in Polk County

Views from SkyEye show homes flattened and cars turned over amid mass destruction.

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