Tornadoes, hail and hurricane-force winds tear through West Texas, kill 4 people in small town

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By KEN MILLER and SARAH BRUMFIELD | Associated Press

A line of severe storms produced what a meteorologist calls a rare combination of multiple tornadoes, hurricane-force winds and softball-sized hail in west Texas, killing at least four people, injuring nine and causing significant damage around the town of Matador, a meteorologist said Thursday.

A supercell developed about 8 p.m. Wednesday near Amarillo before striking the small town, said senior forecaster Matt Ziebell with the National Weather Service in Lubbock.

The storm later produced 109 mph (175 kph) winds at Jayton in addition to hail more than 4-inches (10.2-centimeters) wide, he said.

“That is certainly rare to see all at the same time, killer tornadoes, hurricane-force winds and softball-sized hail,” Zeibell said.

Wednesday “was definitely a rare combination of high-end wind shear and storms of extreme instability,” according to Ziebell.

Ziebell said the weather service would send crews to survey the damage on Thursday and determine the strength of the tornadoes. Search and rescue efforts also continued, although no one is known to be missing, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Johnny Bures.

“We want to make sure no one was passing through town, that was our concern,” Bures said. “That’s what we’re really double-checking for.”

The worst damage appeared to be in Matador — a town of about 570 people about 70 miles (112 kilometers) northeast of Lubbock in Motley County. Homes were damaged, buildings were flattened and power lines were snapped in half. A restaurant’s walls were all knocked down, but the booths remained standing in what was called a “jaw-dropping” scene by Derek Delgado, a spokesman for Lubbock Fire Rescue, which is assisting the town.

“You would look on one side where we had a general merchandise store completely flattened to the ground but across the street, there’s a house that’s still standing and the vehicles haven’t even moved from the driveway,” Delgado said by telephone.

Power outages were widespread across the sparsely populated region, with more than 900 customers without power in the Matador and Jayton areas alone, located in Motley and Kent County, according to The website said it tracks just more than 1,200 customers in the two counties, whose combined population was fewer than 2,000 people.

Ziebell said thunderstorms were likely to continue Thursday, but the risk of severe weather with tornadoes was unlikely.

Wednesday’s tornado outbreak came six days after a tornado left three people dead and more than 100 injured in Perryton in the northern Texas Panhandle.

Another hailstorm pummeled concertgoers at Red Rocks Amphitheater Wednesday night in Morrison, Colorado, near Denver. Seven people were hospitalized, according to KMGH-TV.

None of those taken to hospitals had life-threatening injuries, and up to 90 people were treated for injuries at the amphitheater, according to West Metro Fire Rescue.