ONALASKA, Texas – At least 20 people were injured and three people were killed after a tornado ripped through multiple neighborhoods in Onalaska in Polk County Wednesday evening, according to the Polk County Office of Emergency Management.
The National Weather Service said the “confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado” touched down at about 6 p.m.
The twister left significant damage in its wake, downing trees and power poles and destroying multi-level homes. A command post was set up at the Onalaska Fire and Rescue as first responders worked to rescue trapped residents and assess the damage.
Onalaska police say four subdivisions in the town were badly affected by the tornado including Canyon Park and Yaupon Cove where multiple people had to be rescued Wednesday night. At least five people were rescued in Canyon Park and officials said at least two of the people were in critical condition.
National Weather Service storm spotter Ian Shelton told KPRC 2 he started chasing the storm in the early afternoon. When he got to Onalaska, the tornado had already ripped through the area.
Shelton said there were a lot of powerlines and trees that were downed by the twister. He told KPRC 2 he saw at least a dozen homes with severe damage.
Multiple agencies including the Texas Department of Public Safety, the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office are enforcing blockades, assessing damage and helping residents in the area, Shelton said.
VIDEO: Residents describe terrifying moments they saw a tornado touch down in Polk County Wednesday
Polk County Emergency Management said anyone who might need shelter is asked to go to Dunbar Gym in Livingston as the schools in Onalaska have lost power.
Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy issued a disaster declaration Wednesday night after the tornado struck due to the “significant threats to life, health and property.”
Gov. Abbott’s response
Just hours after the tornado ripped through the area, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement.
“My office, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and other state agencies are working with local officials to provide immediate support to the areas devastated by this tornado,” Abbott said in the release. “The state has already deployed response teams and medical resources to help Texans in need and to provide assistance to these communities. 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 also said that the Texas Division of Emergency Management field staff, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, Texas Department of State Health Services ambulance services and more medical resources are engaged with the community and more assistance is en route.
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