NWS: Deadly tornado in Onalaska peaked at 140 mph winds, caused EF3 damage in parts
ONALASKA, Texas – The National Weather Service said Thursday that preliminary information shows the tornado that ripped through Onalaska in Polk County Wednesday evening, caused between EF1 and EF3 damage with a peak wind of 140 miles per hour.
NWS officials said the tornado caused EF1 and EF2 damage with winds of 135 miles per hour for the most part. However, in Paradise Acres Subdivision of Onalaska, the peak winds were at 140 miles per hour which caused EF3 damage.
Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy gave an update Thursday where she said that 291 homes were damaged, 46 were destroyed and 28 had to be provided shelter due to the damage. She also reported that 33 people have been injured.
A woman in her 20s and a man in his 50s were among the three who were killed, according to Murphy. The third victim was a man, but Murphy said they do not have specific information on him yet.
During the news conference, Murphy also announced that the Onalaska area is under a boil water notice.
Murphy also asked that people refrain from flying personal drones in the area. Only emergency flights are allowed at this time. People are also being asked to avoid impacted areas.
“We do not want to interfere with any emergency service,” Murphy said. “We certainly don’t want to get in the way of an ambulance (that) is trying to get somebody out.”
PHOTOS: Tornado rips through trees, buildings in Polk County
Murphy also asked that residents refrain from burning debris to keep from starting an accidental wildfire. Between coronavirus and the tornado, the community’s resources are spread thin and she does not want to create any more hazards.
Every precaution has been taken to help keep the public safe from the spread of COVID-19, but Murphy expects the case numbers to go up due to the disaster.
“Up to this point, Polk County has done a really good job of sheltering at home,” Murphy said. “We’ve managed to keep our number low, but this type of event is more than likely going to create an increase in our numbers, just by virtue of the amount of contact that happens.”
Murphy said the county has not been given official word on the EF rating for the tornado, but she looked at the swath of the tornado and it was very wide.
As soon as she receives an update on the EF rating, Murphy said she would let people know.
Watch the full news conference below:
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