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Crews are searching for missing people after tornadoes hit multiple states

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Authorities are assessing the damage after powerful storms brought destruction to areas across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. This was Saturday night and early Sunday. At least 18 people lost their lives, and dozens of people were injured. Juan Betancourt is a reporter with the Denton Record-Chronicle, and he spent Sunday in the affected areas in Denton and Cooke counties in Texas, which is next to the Oklahoma border. And he's with us now.

JUAN BETANCOURT: Hello. Morning.

MARTIN: So can you just start by telling us what you saw?

BETANCOURT: Yeah. The destruction went for miles and miles. Homes and properties, including a gas station, were destroyed in several communities. In some cases, people had to be rescued in the middle of the night from their destroyed homes and were transported to the area hospital. A truck stop where people were sheltering also got hit. Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington said the devastation was severe. Two children ages 2 and 5 were among the dead. I spoke with Jennifer Boltz, who told me that she lost her home at a lake in Denton County. She had planned a birthday party for her granddaughter there.

JENNIFER BOLTZ: You see it on TV all the time, but you just don't realize until it's your house.

BETANCOURT: As of last night, authorities were still on search and rescue mode. They fear the death toll could increase.

MARTIN: Juan, do we know, what was it about these storms that brought so much damage?

BETANCOURT: The string of storms brought at least one tornado in Cooke County, golf ball-sized hail and winds up to 135 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Witnesses said other tornadoes hit the area, but these have yet to be confirmed. Meteorologists from the National Weather Service and local authorities had issued urgent warnings to seek cover as the storms marched across the region late Saturday and into Sunday morning. Sunday evening, the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, declared several North Texas counties as disaster areas.

MARTIN: What can you tell us about Oklahoma and Arkansas?

BETANCOURT: So the band of storms also hit parts of southern Oklahoma, where two people died. And in Arkansas, the toll was five people dead.

MARTIN: So, Juan, you know, the spring marks the start of tornado season, but we've also been having severe weather lately. Do we have a sense of what else we can expect?

BETANCOURT: Yeah, we could expect - April and May are usually the most active months in Texas, but it's also been a deadly month with several severe weather events in the mid part of the country. Last week, a tornado in Iowa claimed the lives of five people. Now the National Weather Service forecasts extreme hot temperatures and more thunderstorms for Texas, another dangerous weather condition.

MARTIN: That was Juan Betancourt. He's reporting from Texas. Juan, thank you.

BETANCOURT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.