Shawnee (Oklahoma): Several tornadoes ravaged parts of the American heartland, reducing portions of a mobile home park to rubble and killing two elderly men.
The storms concentrated damage Wichita, Kansas and in Oklahoma. The National Weather Service was forecasting more of the same for the area, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, this afternoon and evening, warning of the possibility of tornadoes and baseball-sized hail.
The worst of the damage yesterday appeared to be at a mobile home park located near Shawnee among gently rolling hills, southeast of Oklahoma City.
"It took a dead hit," resident James Hoke said. 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."
Oklahoma`s state medical examiner`s office spokeswoman Amy Elliot today identified the two people who were confirmed dead as 79-year-old Glen Irish and 76-year-old Billy Hutchinson.
Both men were from Shawnee, near where a tornado leveled the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park. It wasn`t immediately clear if both victims lived at the mobile home park.
Forecasters had been warning of bad weather since Wednesday and said yesterday conditions had ripened for powerful tornadoes. Wall-to-wall broadcasts of storm information spread the word today, leaving Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth grateful.
"There was a possibility a lot more people could have been injured," Booth said.
Tornadoes were reported yesterday 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 US 177, a half-dozen big trucks were blown over, closing both highways for a time.
Gov Mary Fallin declared an emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties because of the severe storms and flooding. The declaration lets local governments acquire goods quickly to respond to their residents` needs and puts the state in line for federal help if it becomes necessary.