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

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) 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.

Shawnee firefighters assist driver Marco Corr as he is taken from the cab of his overturned truck, in Shawnee, Okla., Sunday, May 19,  2013. Corr was taken out of the cab through the front windshield. A tornado caused extensive damage along Interstate 40 at the junction with U.S. 177.   (The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel, Associated Press) Shawnee firefighters assist driver Marco Corr as he is taken from the cab of his overturned truck, in Shawnee, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. Corr was taken out of the cab through the front windshield. A tornado caused extensive damage along Interstate 40 at the junction with U.S. 177. (The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel, Associated Press)

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.

Marlena Hodson walks out of her home as her grandsons, Campbell Miller, 10, and Dillon Miller, 13, at right, help her sort through belongings after a tornado damaged her home Carney Okla., on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Hodson and her family left the home to escape the tornado.  (The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry, Associated Press) Marlena Hodson walks out of her home as her grandsons, Campbell Miller, 10, and Dillon Miller, 13, at right, help her sort through belongings after a tornado damaged her home Carney Okla., on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Hodson and her family left the home to escape the tornado. (The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry, Associated Press)

"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.

Debris is scattered in what was a mobile home park where a tornado struck near Dale, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press) Debris is scattered in what was a mobile home park where a tornado struck near Dale, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

"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.

Damaged homes are seen in Carney, Okla., on Sunday, May 19, 2013, after a tornado moved through the area.Damaged homes are seen in Carney, Okla., on Sunday, May 19, 2013, after a tornado moved through the area.  (The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry, Associated Press) Damaged homes are seen in Carney, Okla., on Sunday, May 19, 2013, after a tornado moved through the area.Damaged homes are seen in Carney, Okla., on Sunday, May 19, 2013, after a tornado moved through the area. (The Oklahoman, Bryan Terry, Associated Press)

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.

"It seemed like it went on forever. It was a big rumbling for a long time," said Shawn Savory, standing outside his damaged remodeling business in Shawnee. "It was close enough that you could feel like you could reach out and touch it."

Fallin declared an emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties because of the severe storms and flooding. The declaration lets local governments acquire goods quickly to respond to their residents' needs and puts the state in line for federal help if it becomes necessary.

Heavy rains and straight-line winds hit much of western Oklahoma on Saturday. Tornadoes were also reported Sunday at Edmond, Arcadia and near Wellston to the north and northeast of Oklahoma City. The supercell that generated the twisters weakened as it approached Tulsa, 90 miles to the northeast.

A flag flies in the debris of a mobile home after a tornado struck a mobile home park near Dale, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press) A flag flies in the debris of a mobile home after a tornado struck a mobile home park near Dale, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

In Wichita, Kan., a tornado touched down near Mid-Continent Airport on the city's southwest side shortly before 4 p.m., knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses but bypassing the most populated areas of Kansas' biggest city. The Wichita tornado was an EF1 — the strength of tornado on the enhanced Fujita scale — with winds of 110 mph, according to the weather service.

Golf ball-sized hail slammed homes in the area. Jim Raulston, of Wichita, said the ferocious winds slammed the hailstones into his home.

"It was just unbelievable how the hail and everything was just coming straight sideways," Raulston said.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management Director Randy Duncan said there were no reports of fatalities or injuries in Kansas.

A flag flies in the debris of a mobile home after a tornado struck a mobile home park near Dale, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press) A flag flies in the debris of a mobile home after a tornado struck a mobile home park near Dale, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

The weather service reported two tornadoes touched down in Iowa — near Huxley and Earlham. Damage included the loss of some cattle when the storm blew over a barn on a farm in Mitchell County. Some 6,000 customers were without power Monday, including in the hardest-hit areas where the tornado sirens were also rendered silent. In the event of new impending strikes, first responders planned to use their emergency vehicles' sirens to warn residents.

Associated Press writers Ken Miller in Shawnee, Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., and Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.

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