4 confirmed dead; NWS releases preliminary report on 2 tornadoes

(Source: GP Shearer)
(Source: GP Shearer)
Updated: Apr. 14, 2019 at 5:41 PM CDT
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EAST TEXAS (KLTV/KTRE) - Cleanup efforts are underway after two tornadoes blew through East Texas on Saturday leaving four dead and dozens of homes destroyed in their wake.

The National Weather Service said Sunday that survey teams reached preliminary conclusions on the strength of the tornadoes that moved through Cherokee County.

The weather service said the first tornado has been given a preliminary rating of EF-2 with the worst damage from that tornado being south of Alto.

The second tornado has been given a preliminary rating of EF-3 with the worst damage southwest of Alto on Highway 21.

Four storm-related deaths were reported in at least three counties.

In Cherokee County, about 20 to 30 people were injured at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site when the storm struck Saturday evening.

About 150 people were having a celebration at the time, according to Sheriff James Campbell.

“No one could hear it coming and they didn’t realize anything was happening until the roof started coming off the building and the ceiling coming in,” he said.

Twenty to 30 people were critically injured, and four to five people suffered lesser injuries. One woman who was flown from the scene died Sunday, the sheriff said.

“We knew they were out there we just couldn’t get to them for close to two hours because about every 30 feet there was a large tree across the road,” he said.

The county has now transitioned from focusing on search and rescue to cleanup.

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Two children were killed Saturday in Pollok, Texas when a tree fell on the vehicle they were riding in.

The crash occurred about 2 p.m. in the 1800 block of Dewitt Henson Road.

Eight-year-old Dilynn Creel and 3-year-old Jace died in the crash. They were riding in the car with their parents at the time of the crash when the tree fell, trapping them.

“Sadly, both children were pronounced deceased at the scene,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Houston County officials say they found the body of a woman about 150 yards from her home Saturday.

The woman, who has not been identified at this time, was found near her destroyed home on Highway 21 West.

Four people were also treated and released after being injured when a mobile home was destroyed in Ratcliff.

Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis says the county is in the process of declaring a state of emergency. Crews are still searching through rubble and Davis says their top priority is making sure residents are safe.

Saturday night Davis signed a disaster declaration.

The State of Texas Department of Emergency Management has also deployed a strike team from Smith County Emergency Services District No. 2 to Alto to assist with search and recovery efforts. The team was activated about 2:15 p.m. and deployed about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, according to SCESD2.

In Alto, a shelter has been set up at The River Church and the Red Cross is providing assistance to residents in need. Contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS or 1-800-733-2767.

““We have a saying at the Red Cross, ‘The only thing more powerful than Mother Nature is human nature,’ ” said Tammy Prater, executive director of the American Red Cross East Texas.

The church is located at 595 S. Marcus St./Highway 69 South.

Donations are being accepted at the Alto Missionary Baptist Church, 107 Elkhart St. in Alto. Toiletries, clothing and personal care items are being requested.

Lovelady ISD posted they are asking for donations for two Lovelady families affected by yesterday’s storm and another family that lost their house to a fire. They said they will be accepting donations at the high school and elementary Monday through Thursday. Items can be left at the front offices and we will sort and deliver items.

Alto City Hall also posted information for anyone who would like to make a monetary donation.

The city says any monetary donations can be made at BancorpSouth in Alto. The fund is labeled “Alto Relief Fund” and the number is (936) 858-4416.

Alto Independent School District has canceled classes until their buildings are deemed safe. Superintendent Kelly West released a statement Saturday evening via Facebook.

“Alto ISD has suffered major damage from the storms. We will have a crew here Monday to inspect the structural integrity of all buildings,” the district posted on its Facebook page.

150 structures have damage, estimated. 25 totally destroyed.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site has reported it will be closed until further notice. The organization released a statement saying they would be closed until further notice.

KLTV’s Jamey Boyum was in Chopper 7 and flew over the damage path of the two tornadoes that went through Cherokee County.

Damage was also reported at Lufkin High School along with downed trees.

KTRE's Caleb Beames is at Lufkin High School where storms caused damage to the school and surrounding areas.

Damages have been reported in Houston County, where the National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado touched down near the Austionio area.

According to Game Warden Zach Benge, a home on Tadmor in the Ratcliff area was significantly damaged. Downed trees and power lines have been reported near Lovelady.

Drone footage shows the extent of the damage across Houston County.

In Longview, multiple trees were downed on FM 968. At least two reportedly fell on homes. No one was injured, officials say.

A boil water notice is in effect for residents along FM 757 in Alto.

Multiple areas are still without power as of Saturday afternoon.

  • Oncor is reporting 3,456 people are still without power in Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties as of 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Oncor is also reporting 1,101 people are without power in the southern portion of Cherokee County. 146 Oncor customers in Houston County are also without power.
  • The Houston County Electric Cooperative is reporting outage numbers are at 2,578. Crews are still scattered across the actress picking up downed lines, trimming trees, and making their repairs.
  • SWEPCO is reporting 94 customers are without power in the Longview area Sunday morning. 93 people are also without power near Marshall.

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To help the victims of these storms, click here to donate to either the American Red Cross or the East Texas Food Bank. Both agencies are working daily in these storm-impacted areas of East Texas.

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