POLK COUNTY, Texas - Three people were killed, dozens more were injured and hundreds of homes were damaged when a deadly tornado swept through Polk County on Wednesday.
Wednesday night's storm produced a very large and dangerous tornado just before 6 p.m. that moved from the Waterford Marina area on the west side of Lake Livingston in San Jacinto County to southwest of Barney which is in Polk County. It wreaked havoc in Onalaska and Seven Oaks just before 6 p.m.
Most of the damage in and around Onalaska was rated EF1 (86-110mph) and EF2 (111-135mph). Low and EF3 damage, with estimated winds to around 140 mph, was identified in the Paradise Acres subdivision in Onalaska. The remainder of the track consisted of damage generally EF1 to low and EF2.
Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy says a woman in her 20s, a man in his 50s, and another man have died. About 30 people are said to be injured.
Search and rescue teams are making additional passes today through affected areas on Thursday.
Officials are asking the public to avoid impacted areas so they do not get in the way of emergency services or ambulances. The public is also asked not to fly drones.
As the tornado carved a path through Polk County, the National Weather Service said radar was picking up debris that was lofted at least 20,000 feet into the air.
Official storm reports and pictures show mobile homes destroyed and tractor-trailers turned over. In one area, nearly 30 to 40 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed just north of Lake Livingston.
Judge Murphy says damage has been reported to 291 homes and at least 46 homes were destroyed, but officials are still receiving data. The Red Cross has helped to provide shelter for 28 residents with damaged homes.
On Wednesday, Polk County declared a local state of disaster to request state assistance and resources, and Judge Murphy says the state immediately responded.
Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday night that the Texas Division of Emergency Management is working with local officials to provide support to devastated communities.
"The state has already deployed response teams and medical resources to help Texans in need and to provide assistance to these communities," Abbott said Wednesday night. "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."
Dozens of agencies from multiple counties are assisting. Judge Murphy says 29 volunteer fire departments from Polk County and surrounding counties, 19 different law enforcement agencies and nine medical agencies have responded.
A boil water notice is in effect for Onalaska, Branchwood, Kickapoo Estates, Impala Woods, and Creeklake Cove. Customers should boil their water prior to consumption including washing hands/face, brushing teeth, drinking, cooking and making ice.
Food and water for affected residents will be available at Garland Park Pavilion until 7 p.m. Thursday as long as supplies last, and will reopen Friday at 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Donations are being accepted at the Center of Hope at 600 S Washington Avenue in Livingston, or contact them at (936) 327-7634.
Surveyors from the National Weather Service will be out to assess the damage toward the weekend.