Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency Tuesday in 56 counties across Oklahoma. The executive order is the first step toward seeking federal assistance. State Emergency Management Department officials are making preliminary assessments to determine the damage caused by Monday’s storms. Henry also issued a second executive order, which exempts trucks that are providing direct assistance for the restoration of essential services from weight and permit requirements. That executive order will aid utility companies and municipalities as they attempt to repair infrastructure and restore services. Henry flew over some of the hardest hit areas Tuesday and toured areas in Oklahoma, Cleveland, Pottowatomie and Seminole counties. "Our hearts and our prayers simply go out to these families who have lost a loved one or lost their home,” Henry said during a news conference. "There’s damage everywhere. I think it’s about as bad as I’ve seen.” During the news conference, he answered a call from President Barack Obama. "Right now they are focused on the devastation we have in Oklahoma,” Henry said about the president and his staff. "The president stressed that he will see to it that any request for disaster aid would be processed quickly.” Henry was flanked by his wife, Kim, and U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, in front of a destroyed Love’s Travel Stop at Choctaw Road and Interstate 40. Dozens of motorists and staff survived the tornado in the travel stop by crowding into a cooler. Full statewide damage totals were not available Tuesday, but emergency officials reported more than 100 homes and more than 40 businesses had been destroyed. More than 130 homes were damaged. The Seminole Municipal Airport and the Little River Marina at Lake Thunderbird State Park incurred millions of dollars in estimated damage.
ALSO ...Damage near I-40 Several neighborhoods south of Interstate 40 near Choctaw and Hiwassee roads in Oklahoma County showed on Tuesday the swath of damage caused by a tornado rushing through. Families spent the muggy day cleaning the rubble that once was home. "But the kids are alive and well. That’s my blessing in the whole thing,” said Dava Hight, who was at her son’s home at 8801 S Hiwassee Road to help clean up. Miles Maynor has lived at the home he and his wife built for about a year. "We love this piece of property,” he said. "I have my life, and my wife has hers, and the dogs are OK, so we’re good to go.” A similar refrain was repeated by homeowners in the area as they sifted through rubble and tried to find their belongings. Steven Blair, who lives in a neighborhood just south of I-40 and west of Choctaw Road, said he found his child’s high chair suspended in what was an attic and still can’t find his barbecue grill or porch swing. "I’d like to know how my tractor made it over there.” From staff reports