EL RENO, Okla. (AP) — A tornado leveled a motel and tore through a mobile home park near Oklahoma City overnight, killing two people and injuring at least 29 others, authorities said Sunday.
The twister touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, late Saturday night. It crossed an interstate and walloped the American Budget Value Inn before ripping through the Skyview Estates trailer park, flipping and leveling homes, Mayor Matt White said at a news conference.
“It’s a tragic scene out there,” White said, adding later that, “People have absolutely lost everything.” He said the city established a gofundme site, the City of El Reno Tornado Relief Fund, to raise money to help affected families.
The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, White said. Everyone at the motel was accounted for, but searchers were still going through the mobile home park. Many of the people living there are Hispanic and don’t speak English, which has complicated the rescue efforts, he said.
The 29 people who were injured were taken to hospitals, where some were undergoing surgery, the mayor said. Some of the injuries were deemed critical, he said.
“The thing about El Reno is we are more than a community, we are a family. … We’re going to overcome this. It’s so devastating to see the loss out there,” he said.
April Sandefer, a spokeswoman for the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, said the hospital has treated 13 patients who were injured during the tornado. She declined to disclose the severity of the injuries or to say how many of the patients, if any, were admitted.
National Weather Service personnel were assessing the damage, but the agency gave the twister a preliminary EF-2 rating, which would mean it had wind speeds of 111-135 mph (179-217 kph).
White didn’t give details about the two people who were killed.
The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm system that rolled through the state — the latest in a week of violent storms to hit the flood-weary Plains and Midwest that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths, including the two killed in El Reno.
Emergency crews on Sunday could be seen sifting through the rubble at the trailer park and motel, where the second story collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and parking lot.
Tweety Garrison, 63, told the AP that she was in her mobile home with her husband, two young grandchildren and a family friend when the storm hit. She said when she heard the storm coming she immediately hit the ground. Moments later, she heard her next-door neighbor’s mobile home slam into hers before it flipped over and landed on her roof.
Garrison said the incident lasted five to 10 minutes and that she received a tornado warning on her phone but the sirens didn’t go off until after the twister hit.
Her 32-year-old son, Elton Garrison, said he heard the wailing tornado sirens and had just laid down at home about a half-mile (1 kilometer) away when his phone rang. He recognized his mother’s number, but there was no voice on the other end when he answered. “I thought, ‘That’s weird,’” he said.
Then his mother called back, and delivered a chilling message: “We’re trapped.”
He said when he arrived at his parent’s home, he found it blocked by debris and sitting with another trailer on top of it. He immediately began clearing a path to the home so that he could eventually lift a portion of an outside wall just enough so that all five occupants could slip beneath it and escape.
“My parents were in there and two of my kids, one 9 and the other 12 … my main emotion was fear,” said Elton Garrison, who has lived in El Reno for about 26 years. “I couldn’t get them out of there quick enough.”
He said he wasn’t alarmed by the warning sirens when he first heard them at home.
“We hear them all the time here, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. … I heard a lot of rain with the wind. But when it kind of got calm all of a sudden, that’s when it didn’t feel right.”
He said his parents had only recently recovered after losing their previous home to a fire a few years ago.
“Now this,” he said, before expressing gratitude that everyone inside his parents’ home had emerged without serious injury.
In the next breath, he added: “Items can be replaced. Lives can’t.”
The storm is the latest to hit the flood-weary central U.S. and dumped yet more rain in the region’s already bloated waterways. In Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-largest city, authorities advised residents of some neighborhoods on Sunday to consider leaving for higher ground because the Arkansas River is stressing the city’s old levee system.
Downriver and about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa in Arkansas’ second-largest city, Fort Smith, authorities said Saturday that 100 to 200 people had already evacuated their homes due to flooding, which was expected to get worse in the coming days.
Missouri Tornado Kills Three, Just After ‘Shelter Now’ Tweeted
Tornadoes ripped through Missouri late Thursday, killing three people in the state capital, injuring nine and causing extensive damage.
Twisters have swept across the Great Plains and Midwest over the past several days, along with violent thunderstorms that have led to widespread flooding and kept farmers from planting fields. A tornado watch, meaning the storms could form at any time, extends from central Missouri into southern Illinois, the National Weather Service said.
About 43,000 people live in Jefferson City, the capital city located on the banks of the Missouri River. Just before the tornado struck, the National Weather Service tweeted out a warning “violent tornado confirmed — shelter now!” at 11:47 p.m.
“We have damage to state buildings and power is down in some areas,” Governor Mike Parson said in a tweet Thursday. “We’re doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage.”
(Reporting by Bloomberg)
At Least 1 Injured When Tornado Strikes Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — At least one person was injured and about a dozen homes were damaged when a tornado touched down near Tulsa International Airport.
Tulsa Area Emergency Management spokeswoman Kim MacLeod says one man was rescued from beneath a tree that was blown onto a home during the Tuesday morning twister.
MacLeod said the extent of the man’s injuries was not immediately known and that damage assessments are ongoing.
Airport spokesman Andrew Pierini said there was no damage at the airport, approximately 4 miles (6 kilometers) from where the tornado touched down, but passengers were moved into shelters for about 30 minutes.
The tornado comes as part of a powerful storm system that spawned dozens of tornado sightings Monday and caused significant flash flooding in parts of Oklahoma. The stormy weather is expected to continue Tuesday in eastern Oklahoma before moving into Arkansas, Missouri and western Illinois.
Officials say there was at least minor damage, but no injuries reported when a tornado touched down near Tulsa International Airport.
Much of Kansas remains under flood warnings or watches as heavy rains are expected to push streams and rivers out of their banks.
The National Weather Service says more than 3.5 inches of rain fell onto already-saturated ground in parts of Kansas Monday and overnight, and more is expected Tuesday.
New Cambria, a central Kansas town near Salina, asked residents on Monday to voluntarily evacuate for up to 48 hours. Officials say Saline County faces the potential for record flooding along Mulberry Creek near Salina and Smoky Hill River near New Cambria.
Pittsburg officials say an apparent tornado touched down south of the city Monday afternoon, damaging outbuildings and knocking down power lines and trees. Roof damage was also reported to Grubbs Hall at Pittsburg State University. No injuries were reported.
A powerful storm system that spawned dozens of tornado sightings is now causing significant flash flooding in parts of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation shut down Interstate 40 in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City, because of high water Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service says up to 5 inches of rain has fallen since Monday.
In Stillwater, emergency responders were rescuing people from their homes because of high water.
The Storm Prediction Center had warned of an unusually high risk for severe weather Monday for parts of Oklahoma and Texas. Damage was reported in many areas, including the town of Mangum, but no deaths have been reported.
Strong Storms in US South Kill 8, Injure Dozens
(AP) — Powerful storms swept across the South on Sunday after unleashing suspected tornadoes and flooding that killed at least eight people, injured dozens and flattened much of a Texas town. Three children were among the dead.
Nearly 90,000 customers were without electricity in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia as of midday Sunday, according to www.poweroutage.us as the severe weather left a trail of destruction.
Two children were killed on a back road in East Texas when a pine tree fell onto the car in which they were riding in a severe thunderstorm Saturday near Pollok, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southeast of Dallas.
The tree “flattened the car like a pancake,” said Capt. Alton Lenderman of the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office. The children, ages 8 and 3, were dead at the scene, while both parents, who were in the front seat, escaped injury, he said.
At least one person was killed and about two dozen others were injured after a suspected tornado struck the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in East Texas during a Native American cultural event in Alto, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) southeast of Dallas. Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis said the fatality that was reported was of a woman who died of her critical injuries.
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In neighboring Houston County, the sheriff’s office said one person was killed in Weches, 6 miles southwest of Caddo Mound.
There was widespread damage in Alto, a town of about 1,200, and the school district canceled classes until its buildings can be deemed safe.
A tornado flattened much of the south side of Franklin, Texas, overturning mobile homes and damaging other residences, said Robertson County Sheriff Gerald Yezak. Franklin is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Dallas.
The weather service said preliminary information showed an EF-3 tornado touched down with winds of 140 mph (225.3 kph).
It destroyed 55 homes, a church, four businesses, a duplex, and part of the local housing authority building, authorities said. Two people were hospitalized for injuries that were not thought to be life-threatening, while others were treated at the scene, Yezak said. Some people had to be extricated from damaged dwellings.
Heavy rains and storms raked Mississippi into the night Saturday as the storms moved east.
Roy Ratliff, 95, died after a tree crashed onto his trailer in northeastern Mississippi, Monroe County Road Manager Sonny Clay said at a news conference, adding that a tornado had struck. Nineteen residents were taken to hospitals, including two in critical condition. A tornado was reported in the area 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, at the time.
In Hamilton, Mississippi, 72-year-old Robert Scott said he had been sleeping in his recliner late Saturday when he was awakened and found himself in his yard after a tornado ripped most of his home off its foundation.
His 71-year-old wife, Linda, was in a different part of the house and also survived, he said. They found each other while crawling through the remnants of the house they have lived in since 1972.
“We’re living, and God has blessed us,” Scott, a retired manager for a grocery store meat department, said Sunday as neighbors helped him salvage his belongings.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Moore said a possible twister touched down in the Vicksburg, Mississippi, area. No injuries were reported, but officials reported damage to several businesses and vehicles.
The storm damaged a roof of a hotel in New Albany, Mississippi, and Mississippi State University’s 21,000 students huddled in basements and hallways as a tornado neared the campus in Starkville.
University spokesman Sid Salter said some debris, possibly carried by the tornado, was found on campus, but no injuries were reported and no buildings were damaged. Trees were toppled and minor damage was reported in residential areas east of the campus.
The large storm system also caused flash floods in Louisiana, where two deaths were reported.
Authorities said 13-year-old Sebastian Omar Martinez drowned in a drainage canal after flash flooding struck Bawcomville, near Monroe, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Department. Separately, one person died when a car was submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, also near Monroe.
As the storm moved into Alabama, a possible tornado knocked out power and damaged mobile homes in Troy, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Montgomery.
Near the Birmingham suburb of Hueytown, a county employee died after being struck by a vehicle while he was helping clear away trees about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, said Capt. David Agee of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The man, whose name was not immediately released, died after being taken to a hospital.
The forecast of severe weather forced officials at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, to start the final round of the tournament early on Sunday in order to finish in midafternoon before it began raining.
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