Family, Truck Driver Die in Storms in Northeastern Oklahoma

By ROCHELLE HINES | September 11, 2012

Fierce thunderstorms with strong winds tore through Oklahoma, killing a truck driver and a family whose mobile home was flipped into a creek.

One storm rolled in so fast, a couple in Nowata County had no time to reach a storm shelter on their property before wind picked up their mobile home, carried it about 100 yards and dropped the wreckage into a creek, sheriff’s deputy Rick Harper said Saturday. The mobile home “basically disintegrated,” he said, and the couple and their grandchild were killed. Their bodies were found in the water after a two-hour search.

The family’s names have not been released, but Harper estimated the child was about 4 months old.

A Missouri truck driver also was killed when wind flipped his semi onto a cement barrier wall, trapping him inside for nearly three hours near Afton in Ottawa County, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported. Jimmy King, 70, of Ash Grove, Mo., died at the scene of massive injuries, troopers said.

The storms erupted Friday as a storm system and cold front collided with triple-digit heat across the state. Temperatures ranged from 94 degrees to 107 degrees, and the high of 106 set a record in Oklahoma City. Then, in just an hour at Tulsa International Airport, the temperature dropped from 101 degrees to 78 degrees.

The sudden changed was accompanied by strong winds. Anemometers recorded a wind gust of 61 mph in Nowata County and a 63-mph gust was reported at Miami in Ottawa County.

“There was no strong signal on radar to indicate here was a tornado, so we’re assuming they were straight-line winds,” National Weather Service meteorologist Pete Snyder said of storms in those areas. “But there are times when, along a front like that one, a spin-up can occur.”

The weather service sent teams to both counties to survey the damage and determine what happened, Snyder said.

The storms took down trees and power lines in the Oklahoma City area, and some roofs and a garage also were reported damaged in Nowata County.

The storms caused more than 18,100 power outages in western, central and northeastern Oklahoma. More than 2,200 were still without power Saturday.

The wind also propelled grass fires in Osage, Pawnee and Stephens counties. Homes were evacuated for a time before crews were able to bring the fires under control.

Marianne McGovern, a legal assistant, said the winds caused her downtown Tulsa office building to sway Friday afternoon.

“You sit here and you feel like you’re on a ship kind of,” she said. “Everybody was coming out in the hall saying, ‘Did you feel that?”‘

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