After already surviving a tornado that killed 24 people and destroyed countless homes, Oklahoma City and El Reno were hit again by tornadoes. A second weather front has shot through the area setting off more tornadoes, grapefruit sized hail and severe flooding.
Nine lives have been lost in total, two of which were children.
On Saturday morning, residents of El Reno, Oklahoma were examining the damage left by tornadoes on Friday. While the tornadoes that touched down on Friday were not of the scale of the one that roe through Moore, Oklahoma, there was still enough rain, hail and lethal winds to destroy more than a few homes on the 31st of May. Due to the heavy rainfall, over eight inches in under two hours, flipping over tractor-trailer rigs and stranding motorists on flooded streets and interstate highways
Will Rogers World Airport had passengers hurrying to the underground subway tunnels for shelter.
Tens of thousands of people throughout the area are without power as the storm moved through Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky, claiming at least three additional lives.
Oklahoma authorities have said that a woman and her child appeared to have been caught in the storm on Interstate 40 west of Oklahoma City and are among the dead.
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Betsy Randolph, said that the mother killed with her 4-month-old infant had been caught Friday evening with other motorists on Interstate 40 when the tornadoes swept in near Mustang, a suburb 15 miles southwest of downtown Oklahoma City.
Their vehicle flipped over, and a state trooper found their bodies near the car. The infant was severely injured but still alive when the trooper found the baby, she said, but died in his patrol car before paramedics arrived.
The main street of Henryetta, Oklahoma was turned into a fast moving river that rose over the tops of the stranded cars and flooded local businesses. stations and other businesses.
Moore, 11 miles south of Oklahoma City, appeared to have been spared the kind of damage it received from the May 20th tornado, which destroyed an elementary school and killed 10 children.
State Representative Mark McBride, whose district includes Moore, said whole area was tense as the storm came through on Friday. McBride said, “Last night as I was trying to get back to Moore, I was listening to the radio and just had this horrible feeling. We can’t get hit again. The magnitude of the one on May 20 was bad enough. As a state, we just don’t need any more. I’m ready for storm season to be over.”
The storm system has moved steadily eastward to hit Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky. The three other states received considerable property damage and flash flooding. Three people were killed in Arkansas on Thursday and early Friday, and several others are missing in floods as water rushed down from the Ouachita Mountains near Y City, 125 miles west of Little Rock, during heavy downpours.
One of those killed was a local sheriff who drowned while checking on residents, according to local authorities.
Officials have confirmed that the area around Oklahoma City on Friday caught the worst of the weather. Rain fell at a rate of two inches an hour in some places. The strongest tornado, which struck just west of Oklahoma City, had wind speeds that ranged from 160 to 199 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
As the tornadoes continue to move through “tornado alley” and hit Oklahoma cities and other towns like El Reno, the experts say it can be kind of hard to spot what is happening around you. You can literally drive right into a funnel cloud before you know it.
As Bruce Thoren, a meteorologist with the Weather Service told The Associated Press, “Somebody driving along really not familiar with what’s going on can basically drive into it. Some tornadoes are wrapped in rain, so it’s basically impossible to see, which is extremely dangerous.”
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Betsy Randolph told how twelve people who were all drivers or passengers on Interstate 40 had been injured by debris or in vehicle crashes and they were transported to hospitals or treated at the scene.
Ms. Randolph said, “It was a parking lot,” she said of the Interstate at the time the storm hit. “It was chaotic. It was a nightmare.”
In a vivid demonstration of the power of the winds in some area, a reporter for the Weather Channel, Michael Bettes, had his vehicle picked up and tossed by the twister that touched down near El Reno.
Bettes said, “That was the scariest moment of my life. I saw my life flash before my eyes.” That tornado was estimated to have stretched more than a mile wide, with winds topping 120 m.p.h.
“We had some significant flash flooding in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area,” said Rick Smith, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Norman, Okla.
Storm chasers with cameras in their car transmitted video showing a number of funnels dropping from the supercell thunderstorm as it passed south of El Reno and into Oklahoma City just south of downtown. Police urged motorists to leave the crosstown Interstate 40 and seek a safe place.
The video here is of one of the tornadoes heading for El Reno, Oklahoma. The storm chaser has to make a speedy exit as the huge funnel heads straight for his vehicle. But as he is backing away from the funnel cloud, he continues to warn the El Reno residents of the tornado and the direction it is heading. Just another of the tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma City and El Reno.
By Michael Smith