Oklahoma Tornadoes and Severe Storms, Five Dead

At least five people were killed in Oklahoma on Monday, May 10, 2010 after tornadoes touched down across the state.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry Lojka said two people were killed Oklahoma City and three were killed in Cleveland County, which is south of the city. Officials reported that at least 58 others suffered injuries throughout Oklahoma.

The tornadoes were part of a severe storm system that hit Oklahoma and Kansas. Meteorologists forecasted these severe storms and warned throughout the day Monday of the potential for tornadoes.

Albert Ashwood, director of the state emergency management department, said crews were working to assess the damages in at least 13 counties, adding “numerous” homes had been affected.

The American Red Cross opened at least two shelters in McCloud, Oklahoma, and Tecumseh, Oklahoma, and continued to assess needs across the state.

More than 31,000 homes were without power in the metro Oklahoma City area — nearly 15,000 in Norman alone, according to Oklahoma Gas & Electric.

Ashwood said preliminary reports out of Norman indicate the damages are “similar to what you would see with an EF3″ tornado, referring to the Enhanced Fujita Scale for measuring the strength of tornadoes. An EF3 is capable of producing winds up to 165 mph.

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. Emergency responders were going through the area to determine if anyone was hurt or trapped, he said.

In some neighborhoods in Oklahoma City, emergency workers were going door to door to make sure everyone was accounted for. The severe weather also hit parts of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri.

Widespread destruction led authorities to close Interstate 40, a major east-west route, in both directions just east of Oklahoma City. Traffic was backed up 3 miles.

Mobile homes, as usual, were targets of the violent tornadoes, receiving heavy damage and being flipped over.

Other tornadoes were reported in Yukon, Medford and Shawnee in Oklahoma, and in Wichita, Kansas.

“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.”

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