EL RENO, Okla. (AP) - Violent thunderstorms roared across middle
America on Tuesday, killing seven people in two states, with
several tornadoes touching down in Oklahoma and high winds pounding rural Kansas.
The high-powered storms arrived as forecast, just two days after
a massive tornado tore through the southwest Missouri town of
Joplin and killed 122 people.
Several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during
rush hour, killing at least five people and injuring at least 60
others, including three children who were in critical condition,
Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner,
said four people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County,
where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151 mph winds.
She did not have any immediate details about the deaths.
At Chickasha, 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, a 26-year-old
woman died when a tornado hit a mobile home park where residents
had been asked to evacuate their trailers, Assistant Police Chief
Elip Moore said. He said a dozen people were injured and that
hundreds were displaced when the storm splintered their homes.
In Kansas, police said two people died when high winds threw a
tree into their van around 6 p.m. near the small town of St. John,
about 100 miles west of Wichita. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.
More severe weather occurred after nightfall as the storms
continued east, but none with the power of the daytime storms.
Their path included Joplin, which is cleaning up from a Sunday
storm that was the nation's eighth-deadliest twister among records
dating to 1840.
"Unfortunately, this event will likely continue for some
time," Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said. "I am asking all
Oklahomans to stay aware of the weather and to take proper
precautions to keep themselves out of harm's way."
The Storm Prediction Center had warned since the weekend that
strong, long-lived tornadoes could hit Oklahoma and adjacent parts
of Kansas and Texas. The storm that killed four west of Oklahoma
City later moved to the capital's northern suburbs and on toward
Stillwater - covering a distance of about 80 miles.
"We knew for the last two days that we had an opportunity for
long-tracking tornadoes, and unfortunately that came true today,"
said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Storms that formed near Chickasha even forced the staff of the
Storm Prediction Center to take shelter at their Norman
headquarters for a time Tuesday, spokeswoman Keli Tarp said.
The long tracks also gave Oklahomans plenty of time to seek
shelter or run away - or in Lynn Hartman's case, both.
Hartman, 39, said that as warning sirens sounded she huddled in
the pantry of her Piedmont home with her two children and the
family dog until her husband Mike arrived home from work.
"We're there just crying and praying," Hartman said, and her
daughter, Sierra, 10, was saying repeatedly, "I just don't want to
The family then decided to flee their home as the storm
approached, crossing the Oklahoma City metropolitan area to
Shawnee. Once there, sirens sounded again for a storm approaching
the Oklahoma City area from the south. The four drove around for
three hours before returning to find their roof gone. The pantry
was standing, but Hartman wasn't convinced the family would have
survived the strong storm.
Chris Pyle was stunned as he pulled into the neighborhood
northwest of Piedmont where he lived as a teenager. His parents'
home was destroyed, but the house next door had only a few damaged shingles.
"That's when it started sinking in," he said. "You don't know
what to think. There are lots of memories, going through the trash
tonight, finding old trophies and pictures."
His parents, Fred and Snow Pyle, rode out the storm in a shelter
at a nearby school and spent the rest of the night fielding
well-wishes from neighbors and cleaning up.
"You just move on," Pyle said. "We're happy they're safe and
Ooten said at least 60 people were injured in the evening
storms. Three children suffered major injuries in Piedmont west of
Oklahoma City, according to Lara O'Leary, a spokeswoman for the
region's Emergency Medical Service Authority.
The line of storms began about 3 p.m. in Oklahoma and followed
tracks greater than 40 miles into the state's capital city before
continuing on toward Tulsa. Oklahoma state offices and many
businesses let workers leave hours earlier to get out of harm's
"We hope that helped save lives," Fallin said.
Storm clouds also spawned funnel clouds and at least one tornado
around North Texas, but there were no immediate reports of damage
Travelers and staff at the two major North Texas airports were
moved to safety as the threat of tornadoes and large hail moved
into the area.
Everyone in and around the Dallas Love Field terminal was moved
to a basement beneath the terminal after the lights went out and
lemon-size hail, high winds and radar signatures of a possible
tornado threatened the airport about 9 p.m. Tuesday, spokesman Jose Torres said. No tornadoes were spotted, he said, and flights began taking off again later in the night.
People in the terminals and aboard planes at Dallas-Fort Worth
International Airport were moved Tuesday evening away from the
windows and into interior stairwells and restrooms, airport
spokesman David Magana said. A few flights may be able to take off
later in the night, he said, but crews needed to inspect parked
aircraft for hail damage and runways for any debris.
Also, fans were evacuated from the Rangers Ballpark concourse as
a precaution against hail during a rain delay in Tuesday night's
game between the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.