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At least four people killed after tornado hits Matador, a small town outside Lubbock

By Jayme Lozano Carver, The Texas Tribune

At least four people killed after tornado hits Matador, a small town outside Lubbock” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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At least four people are dead and nine are injured after a tornado hit Matador, a small town of nearly 800 people northeast of Lubbock, late Wednesday night.

The tornado was brought on by several severe storms in the region. A video from a local stormchaser showed significant damage to the small town in the Texas Rolling Plains. Matador Mayor Pat Smith told CBS News that crews were digging people out of rubble in the aftermath — and carried some bodies away.

The tornado struck around 8 p.m., which made it difficult to immediately assess the full extent of the damage. When first responders arrived on the scene, three people were dead and seven of the 10 injured people were transported to Lubbock hospitals by EMS. One of the injured died at the hospital.

Multiple state and local agencies have sent police, fire and EMS resources to Motley County, where Matador is, to help with search and rescue efforts. Derek Delgado, public information officer for Lubbock Fire Rescue, said he has never personally seen so many agencies working together on one disaster.

“Matador is a very small town, and it wiped away vehicles, buildings, and homes,” Delgado said. “For a town this size, it not only has a physical impact because it just blew away the infrastructure, but the economical impact is something that will be very significant.”

The destruction came less than a week after another deadly tornado struck the Panhandle town of Perryton, killing three people and injuring more than 100 others.

Sgt. Johnny Bures with the Texas Department of Public Safety said people in Matador had just a few minutes to seek shelter. First responders are working on clearing out debris and getting the power back on by the weekend. A substation was destroyed in the tornado, knocking out electricity for the entire town. This is a big concern, as the region has endured sweltering, triple digit temperatures for several days.

“These folks are rural, so without power, they’re going to have a hard time trying to cool down, especially as they’re trying to collect all their belongings,” Bures said. “So check in with your neighbors, make sure they have utilities they can use so they don’t get sick or worse.”

Delgado said the tornado appears to have hit the west side of town and barreled through to the south side. Texas A&M Task Force 1 is conducting secondary searches of the town and will later assess the damage.

“The Texas Task Force is there making sure that we’ve cleared every piece that we can to make sure that we didn’t have anybody left behind,” Bures said. “So today, we’re making sure that we clear all that first, before we really get down to moving all the broken pieces away and get to rebuilding.”

According to the National Weather Service in Lubbock, the storms in nearby towns such as Jayton had wind gusts of 100 miles per hour and softball-size hail. Jayton, about 62 miles south of Matador, was also under a tornado warning Wednesday night.

For the people impacted by the tornado in Matador, a cooling center has been opened at the Motley County Senior Citizens Building.

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