The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 19, 2013

Tornadoes level homes in Okla., at least 21 injured

SHAWNEE, Okla. — One of several tornadoes that touched down Sunday in Oklahoma turned homes in a trailer park near Oklahoma City into splinters and rubble and sent frightened residents along a 100-mile corridor scurrying for shelter.

The tornadoes, high winds and hail across Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa were part of a massive, northeastward-moving storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota.

At least four separate twisters touched down in central Oklahoma late Sunday afternoon, including one near the town of Shawnee, 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, that laid waste to much of a mobile home park.

Across the state, 21 people were injured, not including those who suffered bumps and bruises and chose not to visit a hospital, said Keli Cain, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Following the twisters, local emergency officials went from home site to home site in an effort to account for everyone. Cain 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.

Forecasters had been warning of a general storm outbreak since Wednesday, and for Sunday's storms some residents had more than a half-hour's notice that a twister was on the way. Tornado watches and warnings were in effect through late Sunday in much of the nation's midsection.

The trailer park west of Shawnee was among the hardest-hit areas, and among the hardest to reach, as tractor-trailers that forced the closure of a section of Interstate 40 north of the site and power lines draped across roads to the south.

James Hoke lives with his wife and two children in Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park. He said the family went into their storm cellar as the storm approached. When they came out, their mobile home had vanished.

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