Tornado kills 3, injures more in Texas Panhandle

The Perryton community is working to rebuild and recover amidst massive damages.

By Rhonda Fanning and Molly-Jo TiltonJune 16, 2023 2:14 pm,

A tornado ripped through the small town of Perryton in the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, killing at least three people and leaving many more injured.

The town sustained massive damages to two blocks of stores. The local hospital reported between 50 and 100 weather-related admissions overnight. The whole city is without power. A single radio station is running on back-up generators to keep residents informed of emergency and relief operations.

Suzanne Bellsnyder, editor of the Texas Rural Reporter who lives near Perryton, said that the town is focused on recovery and restoring power – something the rural area has prepared them for.

“There are a lot of generators and a lot of heavy equipment in this region. And that is what is, I think, being deployed to try to help, you know, offset that loss of power and help with that cleanup,” Bellsnyder said.

She said they’re also working towards locating folks and assisting those who have lost their homes.

“I think at this point, it’s about, you know, kind of finishing up the search to make sure everyone’s accounted for,” she said. “But now they’ve sort of moved into sheltering and providing kind of the basic needs for a lot of people who lost homes.”

Being a rural community, Bellsnyder said that it is the locals that really rally around each other and other small towns to offer their support.

“So what you have to understand about these rural communities is we all have very small volunteer first responders in a lot of cases. So firemen are our local folks. Our fire department and first responder crew were really the first to respond to help out Perryton and the city infrastructure was damaged in terms of their resources,” she said. “So communities like Spearman and some other places around the area quickly deployed there to be on the ground to help them kind of be the first line of cleanup.”

Martin Borundo

Tornado-caused destruction seen in Perryton.

The storm has been called a mass casualty event, which Bellsnyder said has served mostly to deploy resources.

“I believe the casualties are just three. I think when it all first played out, the ‘mass casualty’  word got used because it was kind of a worst-case scenario,” she said.

As for the rest of the tornado season, Bellsnyder said all that’s left is to rebuild and pray.

“I think we’re just going to probably pray that it doesn’t hit us because I don’t know how we’d be able to handle it,” she said. “But, you know, that’s part of living in this part of the world – that’s part of our life in the spring. So we’ve been thankful for the rain, but not necessarily everything that’s come with it.”

For those in the Perryton area affected by the recent storms, the Red Cross has set up shelters at Perryton High School and the Amarillo Civic Center. For more information and to find your closest shelter, visit the Red Cross website.

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