Weatherford Democrat

June 1, 2013

Storm-ravaged Oklahoma recovers from more deadly twisters

CNHI News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A series of tornadoes that killed nine and flash flooding from eight inches of rain in 24 hours had the storm-ravaged Oklahoma City region reeling Saturday, 12 days after a monster twister killed 24 people and displaced thousands of residents in suburban Moore.

At least 100 people were injured, several critically, in the latest tornadoes. Scores of others were evacuated from flooding that overwhelmed storm drains with record water levels.

"We're still shaken by what happened in Moore," said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. "We're still burying children and victims from that disaster."

The National Weather Service said five tornadoes struck Oklahoma City early Friday night and continued westward into the suburb of El Reno, creating chaotic traffic jams on Interestate 40 and Interstate 35 as motorists tried to outrun the dark-forming funnel clouds.

 Moore and other suburbs south of the city were spared this time, though they also reported flooding from all-day rain.

Semi-trailer rigs and cars were turned over and thrown about on Interstate 40. Utility poles and trees turned into matchsticks. Office and other buildings along the divided roadway were left in skeleton shambles.

Five people died in their tossed cars on Interstate 40, including a mother and her 4-month-old child. A youngster was also among the other four victims that the Oklahoma Medical Examiner reported killed in the savage storm, including one person in El Reno.

Thousands of homes and businesses in the Oklahoma City region were without power in the aftermath of the tornadoes and related rain, high wind and hail storms. Witnesses said baseball-size hail preceded the twisters.

Mark Wiley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said water gushed into homes and businesses Friday night, resulting in rescue efforts stretching well into the Saturday morning hours.

"It was not a good night to be in Oklahoma City," said Wiley.

The latest tornadoes were nowhere near the velocity of the giant twister (210 mph winds) that tore through suburban Moore just south of Oklahoma City on May 20. The National Weather Service said this time the winds were between 75 and 90 mph.

Nevertheless, Gov. Mary Fallin said the devastation was wide spread. She declared a second state of emergency for the region.

"It has been a hard couple of weeks," said Fallin. "But we will get back on our feet; we will recover. Better days are coming."

Friday night's storm cells over the nation's heartland also caused extensive damage in St. Louis, Mo. Flood waters and downed power lines snarled traffic on highways and streets. Strong winds blew out windows from Hollywood Casino in suburban Maryland Heights, causing gamblers to rush for cover. Homes in the area had their roofs and siding ripped off. Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri declared a state of emergency.

National Weather Service forecasters said the severe weather would continue throughout the weekend, extending from Oklahoma and Missouri to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and northward to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.