POWDERLY, Texas – Residents in northeastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma began assessing weather damage Saturday, working to recover and thankful to have survived after tornadoes tore through the region, killing at least one, injuring others and leaving homes and buildings in ruins.
Shelbie Villalpando, 27, of Powderly, Texas, said she was eating dinner with her family Friday when tornado sirens prompted them to congregate first in their rented home’s hallways, then with her children, aged 5, 10 and 14, in the bathtub.
“Within two minutes of getting them in the bathtub, we had to lay over the kids because everything started going crazy,” Villalpando said.
“I’ve never been so terrified,” she said. “I could hear glass breaking and things shattering around, but whenever I got out of the bathroom, my heart and my stomach sank because I have kids and it could have been much worse. ... What if our bathroom had caved in just like everything else? We wouldn’t be here.”
Terimaine Davis and his son were huddled in the bathtub until just before the tornado barreled through Friday, reducing their home in Powderly to a roofless, sagging heap.
“We left like five minutes before the tornado actually hit,” Davis, 33, told The Associated Press. “Me and my son were in the house in the tub and that was about the only thing left standing.”
In their driveway Saturday morning, a child’s car seat leaned against a dented, grey Chevrolet sedan with several windows blown out. Around back, his wife, Lori Davis, handed Terimaine a basket of toiletries from inside the wreckage of their house.
The couple and the three kids who live with them did not have renter’s insurance, Lori Davis said, and none of their furniture survived. “We’re going to have to start from scratch,” she said.
They hope to stay with family until they can find a place to live.
“The next few days look like rough times,” Terimaine Davis said.
One man was killed as a result of the storm in nearby Oklahoma, according to Keli Cain, spokesperson for the state's Department of Emergency Management.
Cain said the man was at his home in the Pickens area of McCurtain County, about 36 miles (58 kilometers) north of where the storm struck the town of Idabel, but had no other details about him, including his age.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt toured Idabel Saturday morning, Cain said.
“There’s a lot of damage,” in the town of about 7,000, according to Cain. “There are well over 100 homes and businesses damaged from minor damage to totally destroyed.”
Judge Brandon Bell, the highest elected official in Lamar County where Powderly is located, declared a disaster in that area, a step in getting federal assistance and funding. Bell’s declaration said at least two dozen people were injured across the county.
Powderly is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Idabel and about 120 miles (193 kilometers) northeast of Dallas and both are near the Texas-Oklahoma border.
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth confirmed three tornadoes - in Lamar, Henderson and Hopkins counties - Friday night as a line of storms dropped rain and sporadic hail on the Dallas-Forth Worth area and continued to push eastward.
The weather service's office in Shreveport, Louisiana, said it was assessing the damage in Oklahoma.
Weather service meteorologist Bianca Garcia in Fort Worth said while peak severe weather season typically is in the spring, tornados occasionally develop in October, November, December and even January.
“It’s not very common,” Garcia said, “but it does happen across our region.”
Associated Press writer Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.