Oklahoma tornadoes: 9 confirmed dead after storms

The death toll from Tuesday's tornadoes in Oklahoma is nine. A child has died at a hospital. Searchers are still looking for a 3-year-old boy from Piedmont.
By BRYAN DEAN and JANE GLENN CANNON Modified: May 25, 2011 at 9:32 pm •  Published: May 25, 2011

Those who lost homes in Tuesday's tornadoes picked through the remnants of their lives Wednesday as the death toll from the storms continued to climb.

Nine people have died from storm-related injuries, officials said. The search continued Wednesday for a missing 3-year-old boy in the Piedmont area whose 15-month-old brother was among the dead.

The dead include:

• Cole Hamil, 15 months, of Piedmont.

• Laron Short, 24, of Chickasha.

Three people, a man and two women, were killed along Interstate 40 two miles west of the Calumet exit in Canadian County. Nearby, a teenage girl and a 22-year-old man were killed near U.S. 66 and Courtney Road. A 63-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman were killed near Cashion in far southwest Logan County. Authorities are still trying to identify some of the victims and have not released the names of others pending the notification of their families.

National Weather Service officials said at least seven tornadoes struck Oklahoma on Tuesday, leaving paths of destruction that ranged from four to 75 miles.

Weather teams were still in the field assessing damage Wednesday, but officials said preliminary information shows four of the tornadoes will be rated at least EF3, which means they had wind speeds of at least 136 to 165 miles per hour.

The number of confirmed tornadoes and EF ratings could increase as more information is gathered, officials said.

Families mourn

Short's aunt, Donna Gunkel, combed through the wreckage of a mobile home in Chickasha on Wednesday, searching for photographs and other mementos of her niece, who was killed when a tornado hit while she was visiting her mother.

“She was just trying to take care of her mama,” Gunkel said. “They didn't have a vehicle and no place to go. She just stepped out on the porch to see what was happening, and the trailer next door just blew on top of her.”

Gunkel said Short's family is devastated by the loss.

“She was an all-around good Christian girl. She just got home from a trip night before last. She was so happy to be home,” Gunkel said.

A tornado moved through Chickasha about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, hitting a mobile home park, an apartment complex and several businesses on the city's east side.

Aaron Bird was in an upstairs apartment with his two daughters, ages 4 and 9, when he heard the storm approach.

A neighbor began screaming at him to “bring them down here,” he said. “I thank God I chose to take my kids downstairs at the last minute, because otherwise we might have been killed or seriously injured.”

When the tornado passed, Bird stepped outside the downstairs apartment to find his unit destroyed. A baby bed hung precariously off the floor, and the walls were gone.

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