Residents and crews cleaning up tornado damage

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After a night of storms and destruction, the severe weather has completely moved out of the KTRE viewing areas, according to Meteorologist Michael Hetrick.  Residents and concerned citizens are spending this Christmas Eve digging out of the rubble and trying to restore order to homes, businesses and their lives.

Now that the severe weather has cleared, you can expect cold temperatures and windy conditions to move in.  "There's a 40-50% chance of rain for parts of the KTRE viewing area this afternoon," Hetrick said.  "If you're traveling out of the area towards Interstate 20 north, the weather could hamper your travels.  A winter weather advisory is in effect from 3pm this afternoon until 6am Christmas morning for Franklin, Titus, Camp, Cass, Wood, Upshur, Marion, Smith and Gregg counties.  Accumulations of 1-2 inches of rain to snow are expected in the advisory area."

As the dark skies over Lufkin gave way to daylight, concerned citizens went door to door in an area of Lufkin commonly called "Lufkin Land."  Widespread damage can be seen all across the area.

Up and down Lubbock street there are tops of trees snapped off, a car flipped over and trapped in the debris, the neighborhood elementary school sagging, house after house with gapping holes left by the fierce winds that roared through in the middle of the night.  Onlookers taking in the sight, the heavy weight of it all written across their face.  A shake of the head, a deep sigh, a shout to a neighbor asking if they're OK, and the reality that no serious injuries had been reported.  Everyone seemed to escape the fury with their lives.

Motorists traveling all along Loop 287 east Thursday could see visible damage of the storm.  In one area, about a half mile from Highway 59 north and Loop 287, several 18 wheelers were left in a crumpled pile.

One resident living near Gipson Funeral Home on Chestnut Street even reported seeing caskets in his backyard.

According to witnesses, other than damaging a few of the vehicles parked in the Olive Garden parking lot, the tornado did not affect any of the buildings. The Department of Public Safety reported that the tornado lifted back up, and did not cause any injuries.

Utility crews were also working to remedy power outages caused by toppled power poles. Thursday morning, thousands of residents were without power. An Oncor spokesperson said approximately 2,500 customers were without power in the Lufkin area.

So far no severe injuries have been reported.

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