Quantcast

Oklahoma, other tornado-hit states brace for more (+videos)

By Sean Murphy

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 20 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

Alli Christian, left, returns Jessica Wilkinson's dog Bella to her after finding her among the wreckage of Wilkinson's home shortly after a tornado struck near 156th street and Franklin Road on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Norman, Okla. No one was in the home when the storm struck.

The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney, Associated Press

SHAWNEE, Okla. — When Lindsay Carter heard on the radio that a violent storm was approaching her rural Oklahoma neighborhood, she gathered her belongings and fled. When she returned, there was little left.

Sunday's tornado that tore part of the roof from Carter's frame house — one of few such homes in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park near Shawnee — laid waste to many of her neighbors' places, and killed two people and injured several others.

"Trees were all gone. I walked further down and all those houses were gone," she said of her return home to the neighborhood.

The tornado was one of several that touched down Sunday in the nation's midsection, concentrating damage in central Oklahoma and Wichita, Kan. Two people were killed in or near the mobile home park, which is outside of Shawnee, a community about 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. At least 39 people throughout Oklahoma were injured, according to the state's emergency management director, Albert Ashwood.

The National Weather Service was forecasting more of the same for the region — including Oklahoma City and Tulsa — Monday afternoon and evening, warning of the possibility of tornadoes and baseball-sized hail. Residents of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri were also warned to watch for bad weather Monday.

Gov. Mary Fallin began touring the hardest-hit areas early Monday, including Carney, in Lincoln County, and a mobile home park near Shawnee, 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, that suffered a direct hit and was where the two confirmed deaths happened.

"It took a dead hit," resident James Hoke said of the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park. Emerging from a storm cellar where he sought refuge with his wife and two children, Hoke found that their mobile home had vanished. "Everything is gone."

Hoke said he started trying to help neighbors and found his wife's father covered in rubble.

"My father-in-law was buried under the house. We had to pull Sheetrock off of him," Hoke said.

Forecasters had been warning of bad weather since Wednesday and on Sunday said conditions had ripened for powerful tornadoes. Wall-to-wall broadcasts of storm information spread the word Sunday, leaving Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth grateful.

"There was a possibility a lot more people could have been injured," Booth said. "This is the worst I've seen in Pottawatomie County in my 25 years of law enforcement."

Booth said a 79-year-old man, who was later identified as Glen Irish, was found dead out in the open at Steelman Estates. The state medical examiner's office said Monday that a 76-year-old man, Billy Hutchinson, was found dead in a vehicle. The office said both men lived in Shawnee, but the city wasn't hit by the tornado and it wasn't immediately clear if either or both lived in the mobile home park, which is near the city.

"You can see where there's absolutely nothing, then there are places where you have mobile home frames on top of each other, debris piled up," Booth said. "It looks like there's been heavy equipment in there on a demolition tour.

"It's pretty bad. It's pretty much wiped out," he said.

Tornadoes were reported Sunday in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma as part of a storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota.

Emergency officials traversed the neighborhoods struck in Oklahoma in an effort to account for everyone. Keli Cain, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said that, many times in such situations, people who are not found immediately are discovered later to have left the area ahead of the storm.

A storm spotter told the National Weather Service that the tornado left the earth "scoured" at the mobile home park. At the nearby intersection of Interstate 40 and U.S. 177, a half-dozen tractor-trailers were blown over, closing both highways for a time.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS