Deadly tornadoes ripped across Oklahoma on Monday, killing five people, injuring dozens and damaging homes and businesses, including an airport. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reported that three people were killed in Cleveland County and two in Oklahoma County. A sixth death was indirectly linked to the storms. An Oklahoma County woman suffered a fatal heart attack while heading for a storm shelter, emergency officials said. The Cleveland County deaths were in Stella, a community about eight miles west of Tecumseh. A man died at SE 59 and Peebly Road. His body was found beneath a recreational vehicle, said David Barnes, Oklahoma County emergency manager. Another Oklahoma County victim, a young boy, was killed by flying debris, officials said. No further details were available Monday night. At least 57 people were treated at hospitals in Oklahoma County, Cleveland County and Pottawatomie County, according to state emergency management. Two were in critical condition. More than 35,000 customers — most in the metro Oklahoma City area — were without power. Forty to 50 homes were destroyed in Oklahoma County, and 30 to 40 were damaged, officials said. Additional damage was reported across the state. Among the worst: Homes were destroyed along a swath extending from south of downtown Tecumseh to Highland Street. In Norman, a tornado tossed vehicles from the road near State Highway 9 and U.S. 77. Mobile homes were toppled at NE 120th and McGuire in Noble. The Seminole Municipal Airport and the planes there suffered millions of dollars in damage.
‘We will be doing everything we can’Gov. Brad Henry said Monday night state officials were working to coordinate state and local response efforts. "Many communities have already suffered damages, and we are doing everything we can to deliver them the help they need,” Henry said. "Emergency management officials, state troopers and other first responders are in the field and will remain there as long as assistance is needed.” To help coordinate response and recovery efforts, officials Monday evening activated the state’s emergency operations center in the state Capitol complex. Representatives from the state Public Safety Department, the state Health Department and the Department of Human Services along with workers from the state Emergency Management Department were taking telephone calls from communities and agencies asking for assistance. Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched to help with providing emergency aid and traffic assistance, said Emergency Management Department Director Albert Ashwood. Troopers were sent Monday night to several communities to help with security. Representatives from the Military Department also were on hand at the center making plans to send National Guard troops to communities to help with recovery efforts and security. Henry urged Oklahomans in communities struck by the storms to heed the warnings of local authorities to refrain from touring damaged areas and allow first responders to do their job. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Oklahomans who have been impacted by the storms,” Henry said. "We will be doing everything we can to help them in the hours and days to come.”
‘It seemed like it was two seconds’Amy Henderson, who spent the night volunteering at a grocery store in Stella, said the tornado went through the town shortly before 6 p.m. "They hit mobile homes and some homes. They tore up our grocery store, Country Boy, on Highway 9,” Henderson said. "It’s tore up.” Henderson said the storm also destroyed the football field and superintendent’s office in the Little Axe School District south of Stella, and the north end of Lake Thunderbird. In Tecumseh, residents said the tornado struck quickly. "We got no warning,” said Shirley Bryan. "I could hear no sirens. I didn’t hear nothing, just some glass through the window, and that’s it.” Bryan, who is originally from California, hurt her ribs trying to take shelter in the bathroom. "I’ve been through earthquakes and didn’t see this much damage,” she said. Her son-in-law, Cody Klutts, rummaged through the debris scattered around their property. Looking at the ground, he said, "There’s just random stuff out here.” He picked up an object. "Look,” he said, showing it to his wife. "A diskette.” The hardest hit part of the city was on Highland Street. Laura Watts said she and her family took cover in a storm shelter there as the tornado approached. "We didn’t hear anything because our kids were screaming,” she said. "I was crying. It just seemed like it was two seconds, and it was over.” Poles were snapped along the street. Power lines draped across the street, and felled trees littered yards. A tornado struck near SH 9 and U.S. 77 in Norman. Curtis Thomas was working the drive-through window of a nearby Subway restaurant when it hit. He saw two electrical poles snap. He watched one car slip off the highway, then about 10 cars blew backwards and a couple of cars flipped over. Steve Meisenheimer was serving sandwiches at the Subway when a manager called to tell him to take cover. The tornado had already hit by then. He watched as the roof of a business called Perfect Swing was blown off. Thomas said he saw boats shattering at a nearby boat business. The two employees huddled with about 12 customers in the bathroom until the storm passed.
‘You could just hear the metal ripping’A tornado destroyed about a mile of homes and businesses along SH 99 in Seminole. The area is primarily industrial. Power lines were downed and snapped in half, and roofs were scattered along the path. Dale Wallace, airport manager, lost his truck, his hangar and his airplane during the tornado. "You could just hear the metal ripping,” he said. "Then the hail beat on the buildings until every window was out.” She was hiding under a desk in the airport office when the tornado hit. Jake Curry, of Seminole, said the tornado put him temporarily out of business. He owns an oil pipeline company, and the tornado blew his planes out of the hangar. The planes were shoved out like toys, some several hundred feet from their hangars. Hangar doors were strewn across the airport. The smell of airplane fuel lingered in the air.
‘We were crying, and we were all praying’The only room not damaged in R.D. Hood’s home was the one he huddled in with six others when a tornado hit. Hood, 73, had lived in the house since 1966. Now it is a total loss. Rylan McNeely, 16, was driving a sport utility vehicle south on S Hiwassee Road with four passengers when they saw a tornado a half mile away. He stopped, and he and his passengers ran into Hood’s home. "It was hailing golf balls,” McNeely said. "You could see the tornado coming toward us.” They felt the office in the center of the house shake violently as the roof over the living room and part of dining room was scattered for a quarter-mile north. "We got in the closet. We were crying, and we were all praying,” McNeely said. When it stopped, they found the carport bent and most of the roof missing. But in the living room, a table with family portraits was untouched. A glass china cabinet was unscathed, but the ceiling above it showed sky. Stephen Markee, 16, was in the SUV with McNeely. "I thought we were going to die,” Markee said. "It was quick. It was like 30 to 45 seconds from when we were in there, then the roof was gone and it just calmed down.”