NewsChannel 5 Meteorologist Mike Roberts in Oklahoma when tornadoes hit

6:51 AM, May 11, 2010   |    comments
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  • (Courtesy: TornadoVideos.net and NBC)
  • (Courtesy: TornadoVideos.net and NBC)
    

By TIM TALLEY

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains killed five people and injured dozens more, leaving behind flattened homes, toppled semitrailers and downed power lines.

Several tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma and Kansas on Monday as the storms moved through the area, dumping hail as big as baseballs and leaving thousands of people without power.

"The kids and I got in the closet and prayed," said Jamie Keyes, of Norman, an Oklahoma City suburb that is home to the University of Oklahoma. "I heard a hiss. It was like something was whistling very loud."

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry Lojka said two people were killed in Oklahoma City and three were killed in Cleveland County, south of the city. Oklahoma City officials said the fatalities there involved a young boy who was hit by debris in his home and a man whose recreational vehicle flipped over on top of him. Details on the Cleveland County deaths weren't immediately available.

Officials reported that at least 58 others were injured -- two of them critically -- in a tornado outbreak that forecasters had been predicting since last week.

NewsChannel 5's Meteorologist Mike Roberts was in Oklahoma with photographer Eric Voss documenting the storms when they hit. Click on the video link to hear his account.

In Norman -- Cleveland County's largest city with about 106,000 residents -- Tim Tegeler checked out the damage to his windows, air conditioner and fence at his home. Tegeler, his wife, their daughters and their pet fish had taken shelter in their laundry room until the storms passed.

"We saw it coming, but the best thing is my family's fine," Tegeler said.

Neighbor Linda Sugg was picking up debris in her front yard.

"You could just hear stuff hitting the house," said Sugg, who was in her home during the storms.

Near Seminole, about 60 miles east of Oklahoma City, at least two homes were leveled after a tornado went through, Emergency Management Director Ernie Willis said. The town's airport suffered extensive damage and several planes there were destroyed, he said.

The weather was expected to be more settled Tuesday, said meteorologist Ty Judd with the National Weather Service in Norman.

"There is a chance of thunderstorms later this afternoon," Judd said early Tuesday. "We're not looking at what we saw yesterday."

Judd said a preliminary estimate counted 10 tornado touchdowns in Oklahoma Monday, but that specific numbers would not be known until investigators looked at the damage firsthand, starting later Tuesday.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported more than 17,000 customers remained without power Tuesday morning, down from more than 34,000 late Monday. American Electric Power reported about 1,500 outages, down from more than 2,500.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said rural electric cooperatives had about 30,000 outages.

In Kansas, the most serious damage was reported in Belmont. Several homes were hit in the town east of Topeka and there were widespread power outages. But no injuries were reported.

Oklahoma City and its suburbs saw three storms develop Monday afternoon just to the west and each caused damage as they moved across an area home to 1.2 million people. The northern storm caused property damage near Edmond; two storms to the south turned into killers.

"We've had a very strange event: multiple tornadic portions with this event as it came through," said David Barnes, the emergency management director for Oklahoma County. "We have multiple vehicles overturned, a housing addition has had multiple homes destroyed."

In Alfalfa County, Sheriff Charlie Tucker said baseball-sized hail broke the windshields of numerous cars and damaged homes.

"I came home once to look at my own personal vehicle and the windshield was all bashed out. The grandchildren's swing set was up and now it's gone, so there was straight-line winds that came through," Tucker said.

The Storm Prediction Center at Norman had predicted tornadoes, saying the atmosphere had the right mix of winds, heat and moisture. One twister touched down just east of the center's building on the University of Oklahoma campus.

 

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Associated Press

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