Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains on May 10 killed five people and injured dozens more, leaving behind flattened homes, toppled semitrailers and downed power lines.
Several tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma and Kansas as the storms moved through the area, dumping hail as big as baseballs, splintering mobile homes and leaving thousands of people without power.
“The kids and I got in the closet 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 were killed 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.
Emergency authorities in Oklahoma City urged residents to stay off the roads in affected areas Tuesday to allow rescue workers to search for survivors among the wreckage of their homes.
Police Capt. Patrick Stewart said officers closed off four neighborhoods because gas leaks, downed power lines and debris on the ground had made conditions hazardous.
Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay refused to rule out the possibility of finding more dead, but said conditions were tough for rescue workers.
“We have heavy fog (and) power lines down making it difficult to see all the hazards out there. We’ll wait for more sunshine to resume our search.”
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. 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,” Tegeler said.
Neighbor Linda Sugg was picking up debris in her front yard.
“You could just hear stuff hitting the house,” said Sugg, who was in her home during the storms.
The storms left trailers crushed at a mobile home community in Slaughterville, Okla.
Near Seminole, about 60 miles east of Oklahoma City, at least two homes were leveled 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.
Meteorologist Ty Judd with the National Weather Service in Norman said a preliminary estimate counted 10 tornado touchdowns in Oklahoma Monday.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported more than 17,000 customers remained without power Tuesday morning, down from more than 34,000 late Monday. American Electric Power reported about 1,500 outages, down from more than 2,500.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said rural electric cooperatives had about 30,000 outages.
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.
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 windshield 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,” Tucker said.
Tornadoes and hailstorms were also reported in Northwest Arkansas.
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency for 56 Oklahoma counties as a result of the storm. Those counties are: Alfalfa, Atoka, Beaver, Blaine, Bryan, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Garvin, Grady, Grant, Harper, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Love, Marshall, Mayes, McIntosh, McClain, Murray, Muskogee, Noble, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens, Tillman, Tulsa, Washita and Woodward.
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