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Search and rescue continues after deadly storms in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

A deadly storm ripped through northern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas last night. It killed at least 14 people, destroyed homes and left thousands without power. Elizabeth Myong of member station KERA joins us now from Valley View, Texas, near the border with Oklahoma. Welcome.

ELIZABETH MYONG, BYLINE: Thank you.

DETROW: So you're on the scene. What have you seen and learned today?

MYONG: Yeah, so authorities and volunteers are helping locate people and provide aid to those whose homes were destroyed by this, you know, really powerful storm. So there were very strong winds, hail and potentially tornadoes. And across this area, you could see debris, metal scraps on the side of I-35, and that's a highway that goes through Denton and Cook counties and the Oklahoma border. So I spoke with Joe Wilkerson, who's the mayor pro tem of Valley View, and he's also a paramedic and said the storm left major destruction in these communities.

JOE WILKERSON: It's just a lot of damage. A lot of houses were totally demolished, and the biggest problem was just trying to get enough people out. Everybody was trying to get in to get their family members.

MYONG: And authorities are continuing to go through search and rescue, and they really fear that the death toll could be much worse than was reported.

DETROW: Yeah. And we've seen it go up throughout the day. What exactly do we know at this point about what happened last night?

MYONG: Yeah, so the storms moved west to east and started about 10:30 p.m. People were really caught off guard, and many saw their properties and their homes being torn apart. So we talked to Pastor Beate Hall, and she said her church was spared as well as her home, but many are now without a place to stay.

BEATE HALL: There were others where they have nothing left. They've lost pets. They've lost photos. They've lost their homes.

MYONG: And those who were displaced were able to sleep in cots at a Baptist church overnight, but there are also people at an RV park in Denton County who were affected. Some of them were even stuck in their RVs as the storm was happening. There was also a Shell station in Valley View that was directly hit, and there are some reports saying that the walls were just completely torn apart.

WILKERSON: Wow. What about Oklahoma and Arkansas?

MYONG: Yeah, so the destruction, unfortunately, wasn't just in North Texas. It was there in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and it's some of the similar things you were hearing about houses and buildings being ripped apart, trees and nature just being disrupted and, unfortunately, loss of life. So there are at least two people who were killed in Oklahoma and at least five in Arkansas, and there are tens of thousands of people right now who have their power knocked out across these states.

DETROW: It is worth noting that there is a lot of severe weather right now all over the country.

MYONG: Yeah, certainly. It's expected to be a very deadly tornado season this year. And in Iowa just last week, five were killed and 35 were injured in a tornado. Severe weather is also expected to move east, and forecasters are saying that it might move to North Carolina and Virginia at the start of the week. There are severe thunderstorms, hail and gusty winds that are also expected in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana moving forward. And not to mention, I mean, I've been here reporting, and it's getting quite hot heading into the summer. And there are parts of Texas that are under an excessive heat advisory as well.

DETROW: Yeah, and that was a problem all last summer. We're seeing it start to happen again as well. That was Elizabeth Myong from KERA reporting from the Texas-Oklahoma border. Thank you so much.

MYONG: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.