4 tornadoes spotted in Texas Panhandle; heavy damage in Wheeler County

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This photo provided by Stacey Valdez shows hail Valdez collected in Sayre, Okla., on Tuesday. Tornadoes touched down in several places in the eastern Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma and caused at least one death in Elk City, Okla. (AP)

A series of storms throughout the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle produced four tornadoes that were spotted Tuesday afternoon and caused heavy damage in some parts of Wheeler County, according to weather officials.

The line of storms later moved into western Oklahoma, where tornadoes are reported to have killed one person in Elk City.

“We had some tornadoes in the eastern part touch down throughout Tuesday night,” National Weather Service meteorologist John Cockrell said. “According to messages we received, there was ‘major damage’ in parts of Wheeler County.”

The first tornado was spotted at 3:09 p.m. in Hansford County, when a member of local law enforcement saw it touch down for a minute, according to National Weather Service Reports. NWS reported that the tornado was “brief” and left behind no damage.

At 4:39 p.m. an NWS employee spotted another tornado that touched down in Donley County.

The most severe tornado to be spotted, in terms of damage, occurred in Wheeler County.

At 5:21 p.m., NWS employees and storm chasers saw it touch down east of Twitty between Wheeler and Shamrock.

According to NWS reports and the Wheeler County Office of Emergency Management, two homes were completely destroyed and two more received “major damage.” In addition to those houses, a number of barns and outbuildings were also damaged.

No dollar amount of damage is available yet, according to Ken Daughtry with the Wheeler County OEM, as they are still in the process of determining all the damage.

“It’s still to be determined,” Daughtry said. “There are several other buildings in addition to those houses, so we don’t have an amount at this time.”

Daughtry also said that the American Red Cross has been called into assist the four families whose houses were destroyed or damaged, and they are in the process of determining what those families need most at this time.

NWS and Xcel Energy also reported multiple power poles being snapped due to the winds, including at least four that were broken off at the ground. Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves reported that a number of transmitter lines were damaged in Wheeler County and that 52 customers lost power during the storms, but all had services restored by midnight Tuesday.

The final tornado to touch down in the Texas Panhandle was spotted by storm chasers in Collingsworth County at 5:50 p.m. No damage was reported by NWS or storm chasers.

The storms then made their way east into the western parts of Oklahoma. One person was reported dead in Elk City, Okla., according to Associated Press reports.

The tornado hit at around 7:15 p.m., destroying parts of a subdivision, including at least 40 homes, knocking out phone service, and canceling Wednesday classes at schools in Elk City.

Cockrell said it is still early in tornado season and storms have been slightly below average at this point in the year. He warned that tornado season is just getting started.

“It’s possibly a bit below normal,” Cockrell said. “But we’re just getting to the heart of the season in the next four or five weeks, so we will see what happens during that time.”

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