Tornadoes Erupt Across South-Central US, Killing at Least 6 and Causing Significant Damage

Explosive weather erupted across parts of the nation’s heartland Wednesday afternoon, spawning a deadly tornado outbreak that stretched into the evening hours and claimed lives in multiple states.

The severe weather continued into the overnight hours as damage reports rained in from Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center, 27 separate tornado reports were issued on Thursday.

Madill, Oklahoma, was hit by one of numerous tornadoes in the southern Plains on Wednesday amid the severe weather outbreak. The city, situated in southern Oklahoma about 100 miles north of Dallas, Texas, sustained significant damage, and Marshall County officials, according to KXII TV, blamed at least two deaths on tornadoes that struck the area. 

The severe thunderstorms developed south of Oklahoma City right along Interstate 35, igniting just a few hours after a hailstorm hammered the state’s capital.

The first tornado was reported near Springer, Oklahoma, before tracking east. Not long after, around 5 p.m. CDT, another twister touched down and tracked directly through Madill, crossing Highway 377 in the process.


Video from Lake Durant, Oklahoma, captured the moment a tornado touched down in front of a rainbow. Filmed by Durant resident Hayden Baker, the footage depicts hail falling in the foreground while the twister churns behind a set of houses.

Prior to Wednesday, there had only been four tornadoes reported in Oklahoma all year, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

Shortly after the deadly tornado hit Madill, a large tornado was reported in Polk County, Texas, about 80 miles north of Houston. Reports said multiple people were trapped and injured after 30 to 40 mobile homes were damaged following the tornado. Other buildings were damaged and large trees blocked roads as well as overturned semis.

This screenshot of the weather radar on Wednesday afternoon shows four severe thunderstorms south of Oklahoma City. At one point, four of them were capable of spinning up tornadoes. (AccuWeather)

Polk County Emergency Management confirmed 20-30 injuries and at least three deaths as of early Thursday morning, with search and rescue efforts ongoing.

Severe damage was also reported in Jasper, Texas, after a possible tornado touched down in the early evening hours on Wednesday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that local and government agencies are working to provide immediate support to those affected by the tornadoes.

"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," Abbott said.

In Polk County, Texas, drone footage captured the widespread devastation of the area, located about 80 miles north of Houston. Throughout the county, roofs were ripped off houses, trees were snapped and cars were damaged.

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The tornado in Polk County is suspected to be the result of an EF2 twister based on the survey findings of the NWS office in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

There were multiple tornado emergencies on Wednesday night as the severe storms shifted eastward. The NWS confirmed a large and extremely dangerous tornado 7 miles south of Alexandria, Louisiana, before 10 p.m. CDT. This storm remained tornado-warned as it neared the Louisiana-Mississippi border over 30 minutes later.

Officials confirmed the death of a woman in Woodworth in connection to the storms, the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office told Another Louisiana fatality was confirmed by DeSoto Parish Sheriff Jayson Richardson who reported that a man was found dead after he tried to retrieve a trash can from water near a drainage ditch, Richardson told The Shreveport Times according to The Associated Press.

Law enforcement reported that there was significant damage to buildings on the campus of Louisiana State University of Alexandria, which is located about 10 miles south of downtown Alexandria. The university stated on Twitter that all resident students were unharmed.

The SPC has recorded 26 preliminary tornadoes from Wednesday and Wednesday night. This number may change as storm surveys are completed in the days ahead.

Baseball-sized hail also battered the region. Hailstones this large can easily dent cars and break windshields.

The threat for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will shift eastward on Thursday across the southeastern U.S.

April 23, 2020