The first surveys are in from a string of deadly tornadoes that did tens of millions of dollars in damage, destroyed whole neighborhoods and impacted Oklahoma City’s water supply. The National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office’s preliminary survey shows Monday’s outbreak yielded at least six EF-3 tornadoes, as well as an EF-2 and three EF-1 tornadoes. They are continuing to investigate other damage areas. As they do, the pain left by those tornadoes will endure for many. In the aftermath of the storms, stories continue to emerge about dramatic rescues and acts of courage. As the weather erupted Monday, Mike Potter, deputy director of emergency management for Tecumseh, his friend, Lucas Cannon, and Potter’s 11-year-old son, Michael Potter, were chasing the storms and following the paths of destruction. They saw a tornado bear down on an area just north of State Highway 9 and Harrah-Newalla Road near the community of Stella, northwest of Tecumseh. Potter veered his vehicle toward the storm and drove until he came upon an overturned pickup in the road. But then they heard screaming up a hill about a quarter-mile away. They ran toward the cries for help and discovered a destroyed mobile home. Nearby were Tammy Rider, 29, of Newalla, and her sons, Jason Smith, 8, Ethan Rider, 3, and Reagan, 1. Potter and Cannon moved the family down the hill on stretchers made from wood debris as young Michael watched from his father’s pickup. "I was scared and worried,” Potter said of experiencing the force and destruction of a tornado. "I will never forget that.” Potter said the three children were severely injured when he and Cannon arrived. Tammy Rider was dead by the time the two men came to help. Initially, it was reported the children had died on the way to the hospital. The medical examiner’s office ruled Tammy Rider’s cause of death as blunt force trauma. The three children were in critical condition Wednesday at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. Jason Smith is in a medically induced coma, and the other two children continue to improve, a family member said Wednesday. Two days after the deadly storm, friends and family remained vigilant and hopeful at the children’s bedsides.
Injuries and damageIn addition to Rider, Wilbern Patterson, 55, of Forest Grove, Ore., died after he stepped out of his recreational vehicle near SE 59 and Peebly Road, medical examiner spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said. A woman also died from a heart attack while trying to reach a storm shelter. Her name has not been released. Central Oklahoma hospitals treated 116 people after the storm. Only a dozen people were still in the hospital Wednesday. The largest number of injured were taken to Norman Regional Hospital and Moore Medical Center. Of the 70 patients at those two hospitals, three remained Wednesday afternoon. Oklahoma City Emergency Management’s preliminary damage assessment determined that 72 dwellings or businesses were destroyed, 483 were damaged, and 226 were affected in some way. Oklahoma City officials are working on a storm debris pickup plan and will notify the public as soon as it is in place, spokeswoman Jennifer McClintock said. Property damage will total "tens of millions of dollars,” said Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service. "At this point it is difficult to project how many tens of million of dollars, but the storms will be a major Oklahoma catastrophe for insurers,” he said. Texas-based Southwestern Insurance Information Service is a trade association that provides public information for insurance companies that write about 85 percent of property and casualty coverage in Oklahoma and Texas.
Power outages, water woesUtility outages are among the lingering issues in the wake of Monday’s tornadoes. Oklahoma City Utilities Department officials said they are working with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. to restore power to both the south and north feeds of the Lake Stanley Draper water treatment plant, which was knocked out during Monday night’s storm. The department has never dealt with a situation where both feeds were out at the same time. The Draper facility, which supplies water to citizens in south Oklahoma City and surrounding communities, is currently running off of a generator and is at 20 percent capacity, which is adequate to handle current water demands after this week’s rainy weather. Pending no further significant weather events, officials hope to begin transitioning to OG&E electric service overnight today, at which time they will begin working on the south feed. It will take several more weeks for the north feed to be up and running. The plant will work off of a combination of OG&E and generator power until both feeds are fully operational. Citizens may experience sporadic fluctuations in service delivery until both feeds are up and running. Once OG&E power is fully restored, the facility slowly will begin increasing water pressure in incremental steps to ensure no damage is done to the infrastructure. Oklahoma City’s mandatory outdoor watering ban continues for all residences and businesses in order to maintain adequate water pressure for fire protection and drinking water needs in Oklahoma City. In Norman, a mandatory ban on outdoor watering is in place and residents are asked to conserve water overall until they can restore power to pumps used to bring water from Lake Thunderbird to the water treatment plant. Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said the city is using one emergency generator, but it is only getting about 25 percent of the water it usually gets from the lake because of a power outage. Norman’s usual backup plan is to buy water from Oklahoma City and use an emergency connector to get it pumped to the Norman plant. Norman can’t do that this time because of the issues at the Draper plant. Yukon also continues under an outdoor water ban. As of Wednesday evening, the OG&E System Watch shows 4,838 customers without electricity, almost all in the Oklahoma City metro area.