CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The National Weather Service has released a more detailed preliminary report on two tornadoes that went through Cherokee County over the weekend.
According to the report, the first tornado touched down at 11:46 a.m. approximately 6 miles south-southwest of Alto.
The report said the tornado first touched down in a rural field approximately 2 miles north of the Neches River which is also the Cherokee County and Houston County line. It initially snapped several hundred softwood and hardwood trees at their trunks before destroying two single-wide mobile homes and ripping the roof off of a single-family home at the end of route 220 near CR-2806. There, winds were estimated to be the strongest at approximately 120 mph. The storm also tossed several antique vehicles near the home and then went on to snap another 20 trees before lifting after traveling 0.8 miles. The weather service said at it’s widest point, the tornado was 400 yards wide. This tornado has been rated an EF-2 by the weather service.
The second tornado began in Houston County and continued on the ground as it crossed the Neches River from Houston County into Cherokee County. The storm snapped and uprooted thousands of trees along its path. The report said the storm paralleled Highway 21 before getting to Alto, where it severely damaged or destroyed approximately 20 homes.
Included along the damage path southwest of Alto was the Caddo Mounds State Historic site building which had its roof torn off, nearly almost all of its exterior walls removed, and was left to only a few interior rooms in the building. Several people were outside running to get inside for safety when the building was destroyed, resulting in a fatality and serious injuries.
The report said multiple cars in the parking lot were thrown 150 yards into trees and across Highway 21. The tornado then went on to lift and destroy a double-wide mobile home, throwing it 50 yards
As the tornado continued along Highway 21 its most significant damage was at a single-family home and the St. Thomas chapel which saw their roofs removed and exterior walls collapsed. Winds were estimated at 150 mph at this point.
The report said as the tornado neared Alto, it destroyed three homes along Highway 294 and Singletary Street, recording high-end EF-3 damage as it wiped the lower level of a two-story home off of its foundation and left the top story of the home 20 yards away from the foundation. The storm then went on to destroy several homes and mobile homes before hitting Alto Elementary and Alto High School. Damage at Alto ISD included the collapse of walls at a gymnasium. The storm continued on to snap and debark several trees in rural Cherokee County north of Alto.
The storm then continued on to remove the large section of a roof in Sacul and crossed into extreme southwest Rusk County before lifting.
The weather service said the tornado was on the ground nearly continuously for approximately 36 miles and at its widest point was 880 yards wide. Peak winds were estimated at 160 mph. One person was killed and 20 people were injured in the tornado.