At Least 6 Dead After Severe Storms, Tornadoes Tear Through Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana

At least six people were killed Wednesday after severe storms and tornadoes ripped through parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

At Least 6 Dead After Severe Storms, Tornadoes Tear Through Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana

ONALASKA, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — At least six people were killed Wednesday after severe storms and tornadoes ripped through parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

In Texas, at least three people were killed and 20 to 30 people were injured when a tornado touched down at about 6 p.m. near Onalaska, about 75 miles north of Houston, the Polk County Emergency Management System said in a statement. The storm rumbled east through Seven Oaks and caused severe damage to homes and other structures, said Carrie Miller, a spokeswoman for Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy.

There was no immediate information on how the victims were killed.

Witnesses told KTRK that the tornado came at them suddenly and left them little time to find shelter.

“We were in the eye because it got, all of a sudden, really calm. We figured we could get in the truck and get away from here, and then all of a sudden here it came,” John Fuller told KTRK. “Limb hit my truck, tore it up. I just bought the thing.”

One of the deaths in Oklahoma was a trailer factory worker whose body was found about a quarter of a mile from his workplace.

Tornado in Oklahoma on April 22, 2020. (Credit: KOCO)

The worker was killed in Marshall County, where the storm hit Madill at about 4:30 p.m., causing widespread damage to the town, said Donny Raley, the city’s emergency manager.

The person’s body was found about a fourth of a mile from J&I Manufacturing, a trailer factory outside town where a suspected twister hit just as the workforce was leaving for the day, causing severe damage, Marshall County Emergency Management Director Robert Chaney said. Chaney said he had no other information on the person.

News 9 Oklahoma reports officials said another person was killed from this storm in Madill. Information on that person was not immediately released.

A woman was killed on a bridge in Woodworth, Louisiana, 15 miles south of Alexandria, due to the severe weather, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office told KALB-TV.

The sheriff’s office did not provide detail on how she died.

The Alexandria campus of Louisiana State University also saw some damage from the storm. The university tweeted, “All resident students safe. There is damage to DeWitt Livestock building and a camper flipped over.” The campus was also left without power.

The Clarion Ledger reported that storms were moving through Mississippi early Thursday, bringing the threat of tornadoes, flooding and wind surges.

The storms crossed into southwest Mississippi before midnight Wednesday and radar indicated tornado, the Ledger said. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in Mississippi early Thursday.

A National Weather Service team will be dispatched to survey damage and to confirm whether the storms were tornadoes.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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Trump Administration Adds Surveillance Cameras At Mexico Border Despite Drop In Crossings

Despite fewer people crossing illegally, the Trump administration has been quietly adding military surveillance cameras at the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump Administration Adds Surveillance Cameras At Mexico Border Despite Drop In Crossings

SAN DIEGO (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Despite fewer people crossing illegally, the Trump administration has been quietly adding military surveillance cameras at the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the latest move as operations at the U.S.-Mexico border have become increasingly militarized and secretive.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the Department of Defense, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, sent 60 mobile surveillance cameras and 540 additional troops to the southwest border this month. The documents are unclassified but for official use only and were part of PowerPoint slides created last week to brief Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, the primary unit overseeing military operations at the border.

The cameras are manned by the military and will be removed after the pandemic has ended, said Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, which is under the Department of Homeland Security.

The request for cameras was not “based on border flow numbers” but on rising coronavirus cases in Mexico, he said.

“Each person that avoids arrest and makes further entry into the United States has the potential to be carrying the COVID-19 virus and puts American lives at risk,” Dyman said in a email.

Apprehensions of people crossing illegally have declined by 77% since a peak in May, according to Customs and Border Protection. April figures have not been released yet but are expected to be even lower.

The cameras were set up days before President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday placing a 60-day pause on issuing green cards in an effort to limit competition for jobs in a U.S. economy wrecked by the coronavirus.

Trump has used emergency powers during the pandemic to implement an aggressive border crackdown that has included turning away or immediately deporting asylum-seekers, including minors.

The military help means more Border Patrol agents can focus on apprehending people who cross illegally or expelling foreigners under a rarely used public health law that the Trump administration tapped amid the pandemic, Dyman said.

The addition of the mobile cameras, which are are mounted in the back of trucks, bring the total to 192, according to the documents.

Southern border expert David Shirk sees no justification for adding cameras and troops. He pointed out that Mexico so far has a fraction of the number of COVID-19 cases that have been confirmed in the United States, while deportees flown back from the U.S. have introduced cases in their home countries.

“There is no evidence that suggests there are hordes of COVID-19 patients lined up along the border,” said Shirk, an associate political science professor at University of San Diego. “And there is no evidence that COVID-19 is even contributing to a surge in people trying to cross the border.”

The government’s own numbers show the opposite. Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have been declining for nine straight months.

As of Sunday, the 60 added mobile surveillance cameras planned to be manned and operational, according to the documents. That day, the six Mexican states bordering the U.S. reported a total of about 125 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Mexico’s health secretary. By comparison, the four U.S. states that border Mexico — Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico — recorded about 55,000 infections Sunday.

Pentagon officials as recently as August were considering a request from the Department of Homeland Security to send reconnaissance planes and military drones designed for battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq to the border.

Administration officials have declined to say whether that plan, first reported by Newsweek on Aug. 9, is still in the works. In December, Richardson, the U.S. Army North commander, ordered historically unclassified documents and daily briefings on the U.S.-Mexico border to be moved to a classified system to prevent further leaks.

With the additional troops, about 3,000 active-duty service members are on the border along with 2,500 National Guard troops. Barred from law enforcement duties, they have kept a low profile and are largely doing on-the-ground surveillance.

The border mission — marking one of the longest deployments of active-duty troops to the border in U.S. history — has cost more than $500 million since October 2017. The Defense Department also has reallocated nearly $10 billion to building Trump’s border wall.

“The U.S. border is the most militarized peacetime border in the world, and the border is more militarized today than it ever was in the entire history of our two countries,” said Shirk, the professor. “I think the administration is clearly exploiting a crisis to try to advance its ulterior domestic policy objective of restricting immigration.”

Trump uses the monthly border tallies on apprehensions as a benchmark to determine how his policies are working, and that’s become particularly important in an election year. The number of people crossing the border traditionally declines when it’s hot outside, and the winter months often see increases.

However, as COVID-19 cases in the United States jumped dramatically in March, apprehensions at the border dipped further, to 29,953 from 30,074 in February and a peak of 132,856 in May.

That coincided with the U.S. expelling more than 10,000 Mexican and Central American asylum-seekers under public health rules that the administration quietly began using March 20 — the same day Trump announced the southern border was closed to nonessential travel.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, on Monday extended the rules largely shutting down the asylum system until May 20. His order described a “serious danger” of COVID-19 being introduced at Border Patrol stations and ports of entry as well as further into the country.

At least 272 Customs and Border Protection employees have tested positive for the virus, including 62 in states bordering Mexico.

Redfield also noted that many places on the U.S. side of the border have not yet experienced widespread community transmission of the virus and therefore the pandemic in Canada and Mexico remain “a serious danger to such locations.” That’s despite the U.S. having the most cases in the world by far.

The Department of Homeland Security requested the cameras under the Economy Act, which allows federal agencies to order goods and services from other federal agencies.

Congress passed the law in 1932 to eliminate overlapping activities of the federal government. It has been abused, so conditions have been added, including a requirement that the requesting agency demonstrate that its request meets a bona fide need that either exists or is arising within the fiscal year.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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