NORMAN — A destructive tornado in the spring and devastating wildfires in the summer were among top news events in Norman in 2012. Here's a look back:
A late-afternoon tornado on April 13 cut an eight-mile path through Norman, snapping power poles, uprooting trees, damaging buildings and causing minor injuries.
Cleveland County was in a tornado watch minutes before the twister suddenly touched down at Interstate 35 and W Lindsey Street. It hopscotched through the center of the city, ripping the roofs off buildings and raking Andrews Park near the municipal complex before fading out on the northeast side near Robinson Street and 12th Avenue NE.
Thousands lost electricity, and at least 18 people were taken to Norman Regional Hospital with minor injuries.
At least four of the six wildfires in early August that ravaged Cleveland County, including rural southeast Norman, were determined to be arson.
No arrests have been made in the fires, which destroyed 141 homes countywide and killed one woman. Linda Zoldoske, 67, could not escape her rural Norman home as it was consumed by fire.
The fires were among many statewide that erupted the first week in August as temperatures soared to 110-plus degrees and high winds fanned the flames. The fires destroyed more than 603 homes statewide.
On a positive note, a new philharmonic orchestra debuted in Norman on Jan. 15. The 38-member Norman Philharmonic performed before a standing-room-only crowd at the Nancy O'Brien Performing Arts Center. The performance also was the debut of a commissioned anthem and three-part symphony written especially for Norman by composer Libby Larsen.
City officials marked the grand opening of a compressed natural gas fueling station May 4 at 2351 Goddard Ave. The fueling station was the first city-owned compressed natural gas station in the state to open to the public.
A long-awaited underpass at the Robinson Street railroad crossing opened to traffic July 11. The opening was a major milestone in the project, which had been under construction since June 2010.
In August, voters approved a $42.6 million general obligation package to finance improvements to city streets, including a major widening project on W Lindsey Street, from Interstate 35 to Berry Road.
Money also will be used to correct flooding problems on W Lindsey, W Main Street and Franklin Road.
City council members in November voted to ease restrictions on backyard chickens. A new ordinance allows residents to keep up to four chickens or laying hens in fully enclosed coops, as long as the coops are at least 25 feet from a neighboring house.
Two people fell to their deaths in 2012. On June 3, University of Oklahoma student Casey Cooke, 22, died after falling from a fire escape at Evans Hall. Roofer Colby Shaw, 24, died June 18 after falling from OU's Headington Hall, which is under construction at Lindsey and Jenkins Avenue.
Two people died after being struck by trains in separate accidents, and eight others died as a result of fatality accidents in 2012, Norman police reported.
A Norman woman was shot to death Sept. 13 at her home at 1210 Stubbeman Ave. Mary Ellyn Benavidez, 57, was shot in the chest in the early morning hours. Dustin Dale Allen, 20, has been charged with first-degree murder in the woman's death.