A massive tornado ripped through a Texas town on Wednesday night and killed four people with at least another nine injured.
The supercell developed at around 8pm near Amarillo before striking Matador, a small town of around 570, causing widespread devastation.
Reports from storm chasers and meteorologists on social media showed considerable damage with damaged homes, utility lines, trees and infrastructure.
Crews dug people out of the rubble and carried some bodies away. A rescue effort to search for those who may be trapped was underway on Thursday morning.
The tornado was labelled ‘unprecedented’ by emergency services and came as the the Lone Star state deals with a record-breaking heatwave.
A massive tornado ripped through a Texas town on Wednesday night and killed four people with another 10 injured
About a dozen buildings were damaged by the storm and some businesses were entirely wiped out
Crews dug people out of the rubble and carried some bodies away. A rescue effort to search for those who may be trapped was underway on Thursday morning
Around 10 structures, including the Dollar General building in the area, were completely destroyed along with barns and farmland. Several 18-wheeler vehicles were overturned during the tornado in Matador.
Pat Smith, the town’s mayor, who also provides emergency services, confirmed people were killed in the storm and that rescue workers had pulled some residents from collapsed houses.
An elderly woman is said to have died in her home.
Mayor Pro Tempore Dvonna Grundy told CNN her home was destroyed, leaving her without clothes or medicine.
All of her chickens were gone and most of her cattle and horses died as a result of the tornado.
Mayor Smith said electricity was out in the town and is expected to be back by Friday evening or Saturday. He added that several businesses had been destroyed.
‘It’s really, really bad,’ he told the New York Times on Wednesday night, as emergency crews shouted directions in the background.
‘The town of Matador has experienced an unprecedented tornado bringing damaging winds to the town,’ Lubbock Fire Rescue said in a statement on Twitter.
‘Agencies from across the South Plains have assisted with search and rescue efforts. These agencies include police, fire and EMS.
Around 10 structures, including the Dollar General building in the area, were completely destroyed along with barns and farmland.
Pat Smith, the town’s mayor, confirmed people were killed in the storm and that rescue workers had pulled some residents from collapsed houses
‘State resources have arrived to Matador to begin post-disaster operations, including damage assessment and final recovery efforts.’
The fire department’s public information officer Derek Delgado said he has never seen devastation like that in his career and added it would have a significant emotional toll on the residents.
‘It was truly something I’ve never seen in my career, just the amount of emergency crews from around the state that have come together to help this town is truly remarkable,’ he told Fox Weather.
‘Coming in last night from Lubbock, coming in from the south, you really had to pass everything in order to get to where all the command post vehicles were.
‘These people’s livelihoods, we had a restaurant, you know, completely torn apart. We had doors broken down, residences, you know, demolished.
‘It’s truly devastating, especially with a town this size.’
Residents in Matador who need shelter following the tornado have been told to go to go to Motley County High School or Patton Springs High School.
It came as a rare combination of multiple tornadoes, hurricane-force winds and softball-sized hail swept through northwest Texas.
A storm produced 109 mph winds at Jayton in addition to the four-inch or larger hail, according to senior forecaster Matt Ziebell with the National Weather Service in Lubbock.
He said: ‘That is certainly rare to see all at the same time, killer tornadoes, hurricane-force winds and softball-sized hail.
Wednesday ‘was definitely a rare combination of high-end wind shear and storms of extreme instability,’ he added.
Ziebell said thunderstorms were likely to continue Thursday, but the risk of severe weather with tornadoes was unlikely.
Around 100,000 people were without power across Texas on Thursday morning.
Severe thunderstorm warnings are in place for more than 15 million people in Texas and Oklahoma including Houston and Denver, Colorado.
Wednesday night’s storm arrived nearly a week after a tornado tore through another small Texas town, Perryton, where three people were also killed and several dozen trailers and mobile homes were blown apart.
That tornado was part of a number of furious storms that moved across the southern United States last week.
The storm in Matador arrived alongside an intense wave of heat that blanketed much of Texas and Oklahoma.
Officials in the Lone Star state issued an excessive heat warning for the Dallas-Fort Worth area and asked that residents in other parts of the state conserve electricity as they fear the power grid could buckle over several days with temperatures hitting the triple digits.