Oklahoma Governor Declares State Of Emergency After Severe Storms, Tornadoes

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 26 Oklahoma counties impacted by severe weather.

This photo captured the tornado near Stroud Thursday.A tornado ravaged a tiny Oklahoma town on Thursday evening, killing two people and destroying the town’s only school, while in Arkansas 80-mile-an-hour winds caused damage that killed at least seven people, including three children, officials said. Additional tornadoes were reported across Mississippi and Alabama later Friday as the giant system spawning the storms moved eastward.

Several tornadoes struck eastern Oklahoma just before sunset Thursday, including a twister that touched down in Tushka, population 405, as part of a trail of destruction a half-mile wide and seven miles long, officials said.

At least 50 homes in the area sustained significant damage as houses had their roofs blown off and mobile homes were pushed off their foundations, said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Thousands of people are without electricity.

Ms. Ooten described some of the mobile homes as having been “flipped over and rolled into a ball.”

Trees as large as eight feet in diameter were knocked down, many falling across local streets and highways. Trees and upended tractor-trailers made many roads impassible, including the northbound lanes of Interstate 69, officials said.

The area’s only public school, Tushka Public School, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade, lost part of its roof. School was not in session at the time.

It was not immediately clear how the two people in Tushka died, but the town received notice of the approaching tornado 68 minutes before it hit, said Walt Zaleski, a warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“That, most likely, contributed to the minimal loss of life,” Mr. Zaleski said.

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma was scheduled to visit Tushka on Friday afternoon, her office said. The storm system had started earlier Thursday, setting off tornadoes, high wind and hailstorms from Kansas to northern Texas. Most of the tornadoes were reported in eastern Oklahoma, Mr. Zaleski said. Such weather systems are not unusual in the Great Plains and along the Mississippi River valley during springtime, he said.

 Jessica Eldridge, center, and her grandfather, Ernest Eldridge, right, salvage belongings from what is left of Jessica's home in Tushka, Okla. Power lines were blown down across the area, and the storms were accompanied by softball-size hail throughout the region, Ms. Ooten said.

Strong storms also ripped across Arkansas late Thursday and early Friday, leaving at leastseven people dead, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management reported.

Most of the fatalities were caused by trees and heavy branches falling on homes, though it is not yet clear if the damage was caused by a tornado, said Tommy Jackson, a department spokesman.

Among the victims was a 6-year-old boy, Devon Adams, of Bald Knob in White County, Ark., who was sleeping on a couch in his family’s house when an enormous tree crashed through the ceiling and crushed him, the authorities said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His mother, father and 2-year-old sibling got out of the house with only scrapes, the police said.

“The tree was massive,” said Sgt. Stephanie Vaughn of the Bald Knob Police Department. Sergeant Vaughn said officers at the scene had described it as being “at least 8 feet across.”

In St. Francis County, in eastern Arkansas, a double-wide trailer was sent airborne by the fierce winds, killing a woman and seriously injuring her husband, who was in critical condition Friday at a Memphis hospital, the authorities said.

“It looks as if the wind got under it somehow and literally lifted it off its blocks,” said the St. Francis County sheriff, Bobby May. “It threw it 70 feet onto its roof.”

Sheriff May said that the couple, Lardelah Anderson, 64, and her husband, Jesse Anderson, 65, a minister, were in bed asleep when the storm picked up the house and tossed it into the night. They were found trapped inside the rubble of their home with Ms. Anderson pinned on top of her husband.

“Everything around the house was all right,” Sheriff May said. “The outbuildings, the trees — there weren’t even any leaves blown off the trees. But it turned the house upside down.”

In Garland County, Ark., Jeffrey Allen Gibbs, Jr. , 24, and Rylin Gibbs, his 18-month-old daughter, were killed after a tree blew over, crashing onto their mobile home, the county sheriff’s office said.

In Little Rock, Ark., a 34-year old woman and her seven-year-old child died after a tree fell on their home. Officials at the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said their identities were not immediately available.

Also in Pulaski County, Ark., the authorities said the storm killed James Loftis, 56, who was in a recreational vehicle when it was crushed by a tree.

“Nobody told me they saw a funnel cloud,” said Lt. Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s office. “I don’t know if it was straight-line winds, but I know it was loud. It was thunderstorms, wind and hail.”

New York Times