ONALASKA – Polk County officials gave an update two days after a tornado ripped through Onalaska, leaving devastation in its wake.
According to the National Weather Service, 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 said that the number of damaged homes increased to 306. Murphy said 173 homes were destroyed.
She also reported that 33 people suffered major injuries, and that four of the people who were transported remain in critical condition.
The American Red Cross provided shelter to about 100 residents who were displaced by the tornado, Murphy said. Officials are continuing to make passes through neighborhoods to ensure everyone is taken care of, according to Murphy.
People are asked to not burn debris. Instead, people can go to the Polk County Emergency Management Facebook page for instructions on how to properly sort their debris so it will get picked up by the county’s contractor. Individuals are also allowed to call private trash removal services if they so choose, Murphy said.
Water has been restored to all areas except Yukon Cove, Texas Acres and Creekside, and customers who use Onalaska Water Supply are still under a boil water notice, Murphy said.
People in need can get food and water, clothes and other items from the Center of Hope. Those looking to make donations can take cash or checks to the Center of Hope, or donate online.
Murphy said that anyone who lost an animal can call Adam Graham 936-577-1110. All animals are being taken to Livingston FFA farm to be taken care of until they are reconnected with owners.
The community was dealt a huge blow and recovery will be difficult, but Murphy said lives were saved due to the quick response.
“We are all a really small community and so everybody knows everybody. Even though it may not directly impact you it’s someone’s grandmother or someone’s daughter, father or son. There’s a connection, so that makes it extra hard," Murphy said, holding back tears. “Lives were saved. There is no doubt in my mind. (There were) a number of people who volunteered, called and said, ‘Hey, what do you need’ within 15 minutes ... Everybody responded so quickly that, I know it’s difficult for the families that did lose three loved ones, but at the same time we celebrate for those families that we were able to help or that did not lose members."
Murphy said she Polk County’s coronavirus curve had been nearing the plateau, but she is expecting there to be another spike due to increased contact between people.
“Up until this point Polk County has done a great job,” Murphy said. “...Unfortunately when something like this happens, then all those (coronavirus precautions) go out the window. You can’t say, ‘Hold on just a second, I gotta put on my mask before I dig you out from under that tree.’"
🔴WATCH LIVE: Polk County officials give update after EF3 deadly tornadoPosted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Friday, April 24, 2020