People walk near cars and trees damaged by a tornado at the Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno, Okla., on Saturday. Tornadoes killed five people in central Oklahoma including a mother and her baby and menaced Oklahoma City and its hard-hit suburb of Moore, before the storm system tracked northeast early on Saturday. (REUTERS)
At least 9 dead in new Oklahoma storms
The death toll from a series of tornadoes and violent storms that swept across the Midwest on Friday rose to at least nine Saturday, with dozens reported injured as officials continued to assess damage.
The Friday night storms battered a region still recovering from the deadly tornado that killed two dozen people in Moore, Okla., May 20, leveling suburban neighborhoods.
Perhaps as a result, many Oklahoma City commuters who heard tornado sirens late Friday headed for safety and found themselves trapped on local highways as tornadoes loomed. At least five tornadoes struck the area, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Wiley at the regional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
Wiley said weather service staff were out Saturday examining the damage to determine how many tornadoes touched down.
Among the nine dead were seven adults and two children, including a mother and a baby, according to Amy Elliott, a spokesman for the state medical examiner.
Elliott said most of the fatalities were in western suburbs of Oklahoma City including Union City, Yukon and El Reno, where a tornado touched down late Friday.
At least 75 people were hurt, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Keli Cain.
Cain said she was not sure how many of the injuries were critical, and that emergency management officials were still coping with the remnants of the storms Saturday.
"We're still seeing a lot of flooding, and we still have a lot of power outages in the Oklahoma City area," Cain said.
More than 98,000 people in the capital were still without power Saturday, and more than 100,000 statewide, she said. Surrounding areas had flooded, too, including tornado-ravaged Moore.
"There's been pretty much nonstop weather of some kind for the past two weeks so that's definitely impacted the recovery efforts" in Moore, Cain said.
Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City closed and evacuated the terminal ahead of the storms as a tornado passed by. It reopened at 3 a.m. and many flights resumed Saturday, said airport spokesman Karen Carney, among those forced to take shelter and wait out the storms.
"We didn't have a direct hit by the tornado, but we had winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour, so we had some damage to the terminal building, the corner of a roof blown off, a plane blown into a jet bridge," Carney said. She said some hangars also sustained significant damage, and there were parking canopies and street lights down in the area.
Tom Louden, incident commander for the Salvation Army handling their response to the Moore tornado, said his staff of 75 were out helping the latest tornado victims Saturday.
"It was just such a violent and extended storm, it went on for hours," Louden said from Oklahoma City.
Overnight, he said, he sent a team with food and a generator to aid players in the Women's College World Series of softball stuck without power at a local hotel. The event was postponed Saturday as Louden's teams moved into areas west of the capital struck by tornadoes.
He said they were seeing "lots and lots of debris - roofs, walls, trees, cars. This disaster actually had a double edge to it where the wind from the tornado definitely had an impact but the flooding has also had an impact. It's a little of a two-pronged disaster."
To the south, Moore also had flooding and outages, he said.
"We were in the process of moving from relief to recovery. Now with the loss of electricity a lot of that food we distributed there is spoiling and we're going to have to go back and provide more relief," Louden told The Los Angeles Times.
Violent weather also moved through the St. Louis area overnight, downing power lines, flooding roads, ripping off porches and tearing into roofs, including Hollywood Casino in suburban of Maryland Heights.