SHAWNEE, Okla. • When Lindsay Carter heard on the radio that a violent storm was approaching her rural Oklahoma neighborhood, she gathered her belongings and fled. When she returned, there was little left.
Several tornadoes struck parts of the nation’s midsection Sunday, concentrating damage in central Oklahoma and Wichita, Kan. Two people were killed near Shawnee, Okla., and at least 39 people throughout the state were injured, according to the state’s emergency management director, Albert Ashwood.
The National Weather Service was forecasting more of the same for the area — including Oklahoma City and Tulsa — Monday afternoon and evening, warning of the possibility of tornadoes and baseball-sized hail.
Gov. Mary Fallin began touring the hardest-hit areas early Monday, including Carney, in Lincoln County, and a mobile home park near Shawnee, 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, that suffered a direct hit and was where the two confirmed deaths happened.
"It took a dead hit," resident James Hoke said of the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park. Emerging from a storm cellar where he sought refuge with his wife and two children, Hoke found that their mobile home had vanished. "Everything is gone."
Hoke said he started trying to help neighbors and found his wife’s father covered in rubble.
"My father-in-law was buried under the house. We had to pull Sheetrock off of him," Hoke said.
Forecasters had been warning of bad weather since Wednesday and on Sunday said conditions had ripened for powerful tornadoes. Wall-to-wall broadcasts of storm information spread the word Sunday, leaving Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth grateful.
"There was a possibility a lot more people could have been injured," Booth said. "This is the worst I’ve seen in Pottawatomie County in my 25 years of law enforcement."
Carter heard on the radio that a storm that originated southwest of Oklahoma City was headed toward Shawnee.
"We got in the truck and left," Carter said. With upward of 30 minutes’ notice for Pottawatomie County, Carter had time to leave one of the few frame homes in Steelman Estates — and most of her house was intact when she returned.
"I walked up, and the house was OK. Part of the roof was gone," she said.
The scene was different a short distance away.
"Trees were all gone. I walked further down and all those houses were gone," she said.
Booth said a 79-year-old man, who was later identified as Glen Irish, was found dead out in the open at Steelman Estates. The state medical examiner’s office said Monday that a 76-year-old man, Billy Hutchinson, also died, although it didn’t say whether he was found dead or died at a hospital. The office said both men lived in Shawnee, but the city wasn’t hit by the tornado and it wasn’t immediately clear if either or both lived in the mobile home park, which is near the city.
"You can see where there’s absolutely nothing, then there are places where you have mobile home frames on top of each other, debris piled up," Booth said. "It looks like there’s been heavy equipment in there on a demolition tour.
"It’s pretty bad. It’s pretty much wiped out," he said.
Tornadoes were reported Sunday in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma as part of a storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota.
Emergency officials traversed the neighborhoods struck in Oklahoma in an effort to account for everyone. Keli Cain, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said that, many times in such situations, people who are not found immediately are discovered later to have left the area ahead of the storm.
A storm spotter told the National Weather Service that the tornado left the earth "scoured" at the mobile home park. At the nearby intersection of Interstate 40 and U.S. 177, a half-dozen tractor-trailers were blown over, closing both highways for a time.
"It seemed like it went on forever. It was a big rumbling for a long time," said Shawn Savory, standing outside his damaged remodeling business in Shawnee. "It was close enough that you could feel like you could reach out and touch it."Next Page >
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