Tornadoes kill 7 in Oklahoma, Kansas
The storms plowed through small communities, leaving cars overturned and ripping roofs off houses and the steeple off a church.
Wed, May 25, 2011 at 12:10 AM
DEADLY: A new round of tornadoes began two days after a monster twister ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 120 people. It was the deadliest single tornado in the United States in 64 years. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
OKLAHOMA CITY - Tornadoes on Tuesday left five people dead in Oklahoma and two in Kansas, officials said.
The storms plowed through small communities, including El Reno, a town of 15,000 in Canadian County west of Oklahoma City, leaving cars overturned and ripping roofs off houses and the steeple off a church.
Four of the confirmed deaths in Oklahoma were in Canadian County, said Michaelann Ooten, Deputy Director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
A fifth was in a mobile home in Chickasha southwest of Oklahoma City, according to Captain Chris Calhoun of the Chickasha fire department.
Statewide, there were 60 injuries, and 58,000 were without power, Ooten said.
By 9:30 p.m. all the tornado warnings in Oklahoma had expired and the National Weather Service said the outbreak of violent weather, which started in the northwest region of the state and continued through central and south central Oklahoma, was over.
About five separate tornadoes made landfall in Oklahoma, said Rick Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman. Oklahoma City and Norman were spared, but smaller towns to the northwest, south and southeast of Oklahoma City sustained damage.
"This was unfortunately what we've been forecasting for several days," Smith told Reuters. "Tomorrow will be quiet — no rain, no storms, which will be good."
In Kansas, two people died near the town of St. John, state emergency management spokeswoman Sharon Watson said.
Steve Moody, the fire chief for St. John, told Reuters: "A family driving down Highway 281 pulled into a driveway and that was exactly where the tornado came through. A large-diameter tree fell on the car, killing two occupants."
In Newcastle, south of Oklahoma City, a storm blew the steeple off Jesus Alive Church and flung it nearly 100 yards away, where it landed on the doorstep of the longtime pastor's 86-year-old mother, Lovina Frizzell.
"I said, 'Oh, my goodness, there's the steeple,'" Frizzell told Reuters as she stood on her front porch sweeping. "Yes, it's quite a mess."
Also in Newcastle, the roof was torn off the home of Deborah Merideth, 58, who had fled to a shelter. She said that although she was watching storm coverage on TV, she didn't see the tornado coming and only left home because her son called to warn her.
When she came home, her roof was gone, pieces of insulation were in a backyard tree, and neighbors came bearing framed, water-damaged photographs that had escaped her house during the storm.
"It sucked everything out of the inside," Merideth told Reuters at her house.
The state had been bracing all day for violent weather as the National Weather Service reported conditions were ripe for tornadoes.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin told the Weather Channel that state employees were dismissed at 3 p.m. lcoal time on Tuesday because the storms were expected to hit the metropolitan area two hours later, during the afternoon rush hour.
"Stay on top of this storm, take it seriously," she said.
"I've seen many homes that have been destroyed, wiped off their foundations, trucks overturned on the highways. Get out of the way and don't drive into it."
Two high schools in Oklahoma City rescheduled graduation ceremonies that had been set for Tuesday evening.
A new round of tornadoes began two days after a monster twister ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 120 people. It was the deadliest single tornado in the United States in some 64 years.
Storms also extended into Texas, where fans at the Texas Rangers-Chicago White Sox game in Arlington were asked to go to underground tunnels in the stadium, according to KTVT-TV in Dallas.
John Blake, vice president of communications for the Rangers, told the Weather Channel that the game had a crowd of 30,000 and that play was stopped about 8:30 p.m. because of hail.
"We do have a lot of thunderstorm activity here this time of year," he said. "This hail is really starting to pile up on the field."
(Additional reporting by Kristen Hays, James Kelleher and Erwin Seba; Writing by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Jerry Norton)
Copyright 2011 Reuters US Online Report Domestic News