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Several Dead, Dozens Injured In Tornadoes That Swept Through South Central U.S.

This image made from video provided by Thomas Marcum shows a tornado seen from State Highway 48 in Durant, Okla., on Wednesday.
Thomas Marcum
This image made from video provided by Thomas Marcum shows a tornado seen from State Highway 48 in Durant, Okla., on Wednesday.

Updated at 10:46 a.m. ET

Tornadoes swept through parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana early Wednesday evening, leaving at least six people dead and injuring more than two dozen others in their paths of destruction. The tornadoes were among a series of severe storms that bulldozed a route west to east across the South on Wednesday.

The havoc turned deadly around 5 p.m. local time in the town of Madill, in southern Oklahoma, where extreme storms loosed a tornado that tossed vehicles and damaged dozens of buildings throughout the area. Robert Chaney, director of Marshall County's emergency management, also told reporters that two people died in the town.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said that, as of 7 p.m. local time, more than 7,100 customers across the state had been left without electricity.

Just about an hour after the tornado in Madill touched down, the same storm system also deposited a deadly tornado near the town of Onalaska in southeast Texas, about 75 miles north of Houston.

Polk County Emergency Management officials said overnight that the tornado cut a swath through more than a dozen neighborhoods in and around Onalaska on Wednesday evening, leaving at least three people dead and up to 30 injured.

"It did significant damage," Charles Roeseler of the National Weather Service told Houston Public Media's Davis Land. "It did of course knock down trees, power lines; dozens of mobile homes were overturned."

Roeseler also noted that emergency officials are dealing with a "brand-new world" wrought by the response to the coronavirus — which means keeping a safe distance, even as they try to sort out the damage from the storms.

"Normally we would meet with emergency management and tour the sites together," he explained. "Now we'll be asking where the sites are, going up and trying to find our way and following them, and keeping our distance that way."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement released Wednesday night that officials with at least half a dozen different groups are involved in the state's response.

"Our hearts are with our fellow Texans tonight," he said, "and the state will continue to do everything it can to support those affected by this severe weather."

Central Louisiana also felt the deadly effects of Wednesday's storms. The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office told local news station KALB that at least one woman died in the severe weather over the town of Woodworth, about 80 miles north of Lafayette.

Louisiana State University of Alexandria, which neighbors Woodworth, also suffered some structural damage and power loss in the storms — though the school announced overnight that all student residents appeared to be safe.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.