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Multiple tornadoes and torrential rains Friday mounted a furious assault on Oklahoma City and surrounding communities, killing at least five people and terrorizing residents still shell-shocked from the May 20 killer tornado that ravaged Moore and south Oklahoma City.
Major flooding overwhelmed the metro area, stranding people in vehicles throughout the city. Baseball-sized hail pounded El Reno, breaking windows and destroying roofs.
More than 86,000 Oklahoma homes and businesses lost power.
Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's office, confirmed that at least five people were killed in the storm, including a mother and child.
Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards said deputies were searching for a missing person, as well.
At least 87 people were treated for injuries at area hospitals.
Multiple injuries were reported near Interstate 40 and Banner Road, where six tractor-trailers were flipped on their sides near a westbound weigh station along the interstate between Yukon and El Reno.
Two other tractor-trailers overturned on the interstate — one blocking an eastbound lane and the other a westbound lane. Sheet metal debris littered the median.
“We are trying to get there, but hurricane-force winds and low visibility are preventing us from getting there,” Lara O'Leary, spokeswoman for the Emergency Management Services Authority ambulance service, said early Friday evening.
Keith Williams, 25, of El Reno took shelter in his car under the I-40 overpass at Banner Road as the tornado passed over.
“I got picked up twice and dropped,” he said, adding that his front tire got blown out and the back end of his car was smashed.
Williams said he then crawled in a vehicle with a television storm chaser and watched the tornado roar away.
“It was like a cotton candy machine. It kept picking things up and getting bigger,” Williams said. “The movie twister had nothing on this.”
Williams said he watched as a semi got sucked up under the overpass and dropped.
“It looked like spaghetti being sucked up,” he said.
Marcus Jolly, 32, of El Reno said he pulled off I-40 at a church where hundreds of people were gathered.
“It was a war zone,” he said of the area along I-40. “There were semis turned over and skeletons of buildings remaining.”
Rebecca Wear said she took shelter at a dry cleaners, and the owner took her to her home where they weathered the storm under a mattress in the hallway with other family members.
The Canadian Valley Technology Center, east of El Reno on U.S. 66, was heavily damaged. Instructor Tony Huffines, 57, said he and 12 students in a cartridge loading class took shelter in a basement.
“We were downstairs and saw a big, black cloud of debris out the only window that we could see,” Huffines said. “Everything went black. Our ears started popping. It went over us for 10 to 15 minutes and blew out skylights, all of the windows, blew down doors, tore down roofs, spun cars upside down and planted them on their sides in the road ditch.”
Huffines said when students finally were able to climb back upstairs, they saw airplanes from the center's aviation maintenance technology program strewn about.
“We were down underground and when we came up there were airplanes thrown around, trees without a limb left on them -- it's bad. But, nobody was hurt. I'm happy everyone got out of it,” he said.
“It's ugly,” Jim Meadows, owner of Don Serapio's, a Mexican restaurant in El Reno, said of conditions in that city. “There's a lot of poles down. There's a lot of houses blown away.”
Also damaged along U.S. 66 was the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children's Justice Center and the OKC West Livestock Market, where cattle are auctioned, he said.
His restaurant had some rain leaks but will be open Saturday to feed emergency workers for free, Meadows said.
Behind his business, some of the roof was peeled off a shopping center that had been renovated into a meeting place, he said.
None of the children in detention at the justice center or in drug and alcohol treatment program there were hurt, Canadian County Associate District Judge Bob Hughey said.
“The roof has been damaged. There is a significant amount of water in the building,” the judge said. “All the kids are safe. All the kids are fine.”
In Moore, Mayor Glenn Lewis said the suburb was experiencing massive flooding and may have been hit again by a tornado. “There's damage all over. I've seen really big trees in the road and a couple of power lines. The power is completely out,” he said. “The water is about 4 feet deep in every end of town just about. We're advising people to stay off the roads and please don't get out in this. It's terrible.”
The mayor said he saw three ambulances headed to the area hit by a tornado May 20. He said he and his wife sought safety Friday night in the vault of his jewelry store.
Shell Food Plaza at I-40 and Banner Road also was heavily damaged, but employees took shelter in a nearby cellar and nobody was hurt at that location.
A tornado hit us,” said owner Ron Ulloa. “We lost a lot of glass, our roof is gone, and the building is totaled.”
Ulloa, who was not at the store when it was damaged, said two employees escaped injury by fleeing a block to a storm cellar, but passing motorists broke into the locked store seeking shelter as the tornado bore down. They were injured.
Store clerk Deana Ritchards, 35, said, “Four or five were injured. One cut himself on glass. The most serious was a broken leg. We saw the tornado in a pasture taking out some barns. It was huge.”
Torrential rains caused massive flooding in central Oklahoma, including downtown Oklahoma City. The Mesonet was reporting 4.61 inches of rain fell near El Reno and 3.21 inches fell in north Oklahoma City during a three-hour period Friday evening.
District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan reported 5 feet of water in tunnels under the downtown county courthouse and other water damage to the building.
There was also significant flooding and wind-related damage reported at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S May Ave., and in the Capitol Hill area south of Oklahoma City, he said.
A police officer at Oklahoma City University said part of the roof on building there fell in, but said nobody was injured. He had no further details.
Wet floors also were reported at the Devon Tower, Metro Transit facility and Oklahoma City Municipal Courts.
Five Metro Transit buses were stranded, but no passengers were aboard, reported Kristy Yager, city spokeswoman.
Flooded streets were reported throughout Oklahoma City as city crew rushed to put up barricades in problem spots to numerous to mention.
“We are overwhelmed right now with calls of people trapped in vehicles in high water, to the point that we are having grave difficulty even responding to all of them,” said Lt. Jay Barnett of the Oklahoma City Police Department. “The flooding is the major problem in the Oklahoma City metro. A lot of that has to do with people who, for whatever reason, instead of sheltering decided to outrun the storm and got caught in it.”
Driving rain and hail were hindering rescue efforts.
“Areas of the city that don't normally flood — we're seeing flooding,” he said. “We're also still dealing with traffic jams that resulted from high traffic volume that appears to have been generated by the storm.”
Dangerous situations developed along interstates heading in and out of Oklahoma City on Friday evening after television weathermen announced a massive tornado had touched down near El Reno, and at least one weatherman warned residents they needed to get underground.
Residents who don't have underground shelters typically head for bathtubs and interior rooms during tornado warnings in Oklahoma. Warned that they needed to get below ground — many apparently turned to the interstates and tried to outrun the storm, leading to gridlock along Interstate 35 and some other highways.
Several thousand people, including an estimated 1,200 passengers, took shelter in a tunnel at Will Rogers World Airport, said airport spokeswoman Karen Carney.
There was “lots of debris on the airfield,” she said.
She estimated people were in the shelter one-and-a-half to two hours before receiving the all-clear signal around 7:30 or 7:45 p.m.
At 9:30 p.m., power was still out at the airport, although some auxiliary power was lighting the terminal.
Southwest Airlines had canceled its flights, and the one Frontier flight scheduled to depart was canceled, she said.
“We still have a terminal full of people,” Carney said. Flooding on Meridian Avenue limited access to the airport.
There was a report of one hangar with a damaged door, Carney said. There was some water dripping from the ceiling and floors were wet from water blowing in the doors, she said.
Downed power lines blocked State Highway 66 near I-40 between El Reno and Yukon.
David Andra, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service's Norman Forecast Office, said the bulk of damage was inflicted by a large tornado that developed in Canadian County and weakened as it came into Oklahoma County.
Some smaller tornadoes inflicted lesser damage, he said.
The main tornado touched down in a rural area southwest of El Reno around 5:55 p.m. and initially traveled southeast and east before turning northeast and crossing I-40 to the west of Yukon.
“There was lots of wind -- lots of 80 to 90 mph wind gusts in the area,” said Rick Smith, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Smith blamed the flooding on a “huge complex of severe thunderstorms” that moved extremely slowly through Canadian and Oklahoma counties, drifting southeast through Norman, Moore and toward Shawnee.
Oklahoma City Councilman Larry McAtee said his family rode out the storm at Integris Baptist Medical Center. They returned to find extensive street flooding and the power out in their neighborhood at NW 30 and Meridian, he said.
At the Women's College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, winner's bracket games between Oklahoma and Texas, and Tennessee and Washington were postponed until Saturday.
Flooding downtown poured water into the Cox Convention Center, forcing the postponement of the Oklahoma City Barons' AHL playoff game against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Brooke Cayot, spokeswoman for Integris Canadian Valley Hospital in Yukon, said 26 patients were admitted there, including one in critical condition. Two pediatric patients were transferred to the Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center. One was in serious condition. Injuries included head trauma, blunt force trauma, cuts and fractures, she said.
Thirty patients were admitted to Integris Southwest Hospital with trauma related injuries. One was in serious condition, Cayot said.
Ten patients were admitted to Integris Baptist Medical Center with storm injuries, including an infant in critical condition.
Six children and two adults were treated at OU Medical Center. One adult was in intensive care, said Eric Ferguson, OU Medical Center spokesman.
And 13 patients were admitted to Mercy Hospital in El Reno, including two in critical condition.
Contributing: Staff writers Bryan Painter, William Crum, Hannah Covington, Nolan Clay, Andrew Knittle, Julianna Keeping, Jaclyn Cosgrove, Tiffany Gibson, Jim Beckel, Robby Trammell, Adam Kemp, Michael McNutt, Carmen Forman and Steve Lackmeyer.