Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains of the US left behind flattened homes, toppled lorries and downed power lines.
5 dead, dozens injured as tornadoes hit
NORMAN, Oklahoma // Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains of the United States killed five people and injured dozens, leaving behind flattened homes, toppled lorries and downed power lines. Several tornadoes were reported in the states of Oklahoma and Kansas yesterday as the storms moved through the area, dumping hail as big as baseballs and leaving tens of thousands of people without power.
"The kids and I got in the wardrobe and prayed," said Jamie Keyes, of Norman, an Oklahoma City suburb that is home to the University of Oklahoma. "I heard a hiss. It was like something was whistling very loud." Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry Lojka said two people were killed in Oklahoma City and three in Cleveland County, south of the city. Oklahoma City officials said the fatalities there involved a young boy who was hit by debris in his home and a man whose recreational vehicle flipped over on top of him. Details on the Cleveland County deaths weren't immediately available.
Officials reported that at least 58 others were injured - two of them critically - in a tornado outbreak that forecasters had been predicting since last week. In Norman - Cleveland County's largest city with about 106,000 residents - Tim Tegeler checked out the damage to his windows, air conditioner and fence at his home. Mr Tegeler, his wife, their daughters and their pet fish had taken shelter in their laundry room until the storms passed.
"We saw it coming, but the best thing is my family's fine," Mr Tegeler said. Neighbour Linda Sugg was picking up debris in her front yard. "You could just hear stuff hitting the house," said Ms Sugg, who was in her home during the storms. Near Seminole, about 95 kilometres east of Oklahoma City, at least two homes were levelled after a tornado went through, Emergency Management Director Ernie Willis said. The town's airport suffered extensive damage and several planes there were destroyed, he said.
East of Oklahoma City, widespread destruction led authorities to shut down Interstate 40, a major east-west route. Interstate 35, which runs from Mexico to Minnesota, also was closed briefly at the Kansas-Oklahoma border because overturned tractor-trailers blocked all lanes. At Moore, near Oklahoma City, lorries were overturned in the median, but the road remained open. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said more than 65,000 homes and businesses were without power.
In Kansas, the most serious damage was reported in Belmont. Several homes were hit in the town east of Topeka and there were widespread power outages. But no injuries were reported. Oklahoma City and its suburbs saw three storms develop Monday afternoon just to the west and each caused damage as they moved across an area home to 1.2 million people. The northern storm caused property damage near Edmond; two storms to the south turned into killers.
"We've had a very strange event: multiple tornadic portions with this event as it came through," said David Barnes, the emergency management director for Oklahoma County. "We have multiple vehicles overturned, a housing addition has had multiple homes destroyed." In Alfalfa County, Sheriff Charlie Tucker said baseball-sized hail broke the windshields of numerous cars and damaged homes. "I came home once to look at my own personal vehicle and the windscreen was all bashed out. The grandchildren's swing set was up and now it's gone, so there was straight-line winds that came through," Mr Tucker said.
The Storm Prediction Center at Norman had predicted tornadoes, saying the atmosphere had the right mix of winds, heat and moisture. One twister touched down just east of the center's building on the University of Oklahoma campus. * AP