OKLAHOMA CITY — Victims from a 51-twister outbreak across Tornado Alley sifted through rubble Thursday while forecasters issued ominous forecasts for the coming days.
Tornadoes hit Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and north Texas on Wednesday. Most were small and chewed up only farmland, but a pair crossed into Oklahoma City and damaged homes and businesses. A few injuries were reported — including about a dozen at an Oklahoma City trailer park — and one woman drowned in an underground storm shelter that flooded.
"There is a hotel on Interstate 35 that sustained major damage_it just looks destroyed," said Oklahoma Police Sergeant Gary Knight. "We've been going room to room."
The Storm Prediction Center had warned that severe weather would come to Tornado Alley and said more storms were possible later in the week. Meteorologist John Hart said the greatest threat for severe weather Thursday was in southern Oklahoma and North Texas. Even two days out, the center was warning of a "moderate risk" of severe storms Saturday from the high plains of Kansas to the Red River area north of Dallas, including much of western Oklahoma.
"The conditions are right; it's the right time of year," forecaster John Hart said. "There are just a lot of things that make you think over the next three days there will probably be big tornadoes across the southern Plains."
Grady County authorities said Wednesday that a tornado destroyed 25 homes in Bridge Creek, a community southwest of Oklahoma City.
Throughout the region, flooding was a concern after 5-8 inches fell, said Forrest Mitchell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman. The 7.1 inches that fell at the Oklahoma City airport easily eclipsed the previous daily high of 2.61 inches, he said.
Oklahoma City spokeswoman Kristy Yager said the heavy rains prompted the city to issue its first flash flood emergency.
Lara O'Leary, a spokeswoman for Emergency Medical Services Authority, said ambulances responded to water rescues "all over" the Oklahoma City metro area. Two ambulance crews required also assistance after getting stuck in high water, she said.
Police Sgt. Gary Knight said the body of a 42-year-old Oklahoma City woman was found Thursday morning in a flooded underground storm shelter. She apparently drowned after taking cover there, he said.
Lt. John Vincent of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said early Thursday that troopers responded to many emergency calls for stranded vehicles overnight and that all stuck vehicles have been checked for trapped motorists. He said all flooded roads have reopened except for the H.E. Bailey Turnpike, which is partially closed.
Associated Press writer Allen Reed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.