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Oklahoma launches recovery efforts after tornadoes

From staff reports Modified: February 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm •  Published: February 12, 2009
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/> The tornado blew off some walls and part of the frame of the home.

A washing machine struck Opsahl, but he was not seriously injured. All of his family members suffered bruises and scratches.

Still, Opsahl's daughter said, “That was fun.”

One of Opsahl's two trucks was blown to the other side of the mobile home park, and his mother-in-law's car was flipped onto its top.

Asked what he'll do next, Opsahl shrugged. “We'll start over,” he said. “I'll buy me another home.”

Mike Graham, 47, of Lone Grove, went to check on his parents at their single-story frame home. He and his parents gathered in the center hallway, and the tornado struck the home.

“My ears pressured as it came through,” he said.

The home was destroyed, but he and his parents survived.

His mobile home, which was nearby, was also destroyed, as was a brick home next door.

'Like a thousand jet engines'

Wes Pack on Wednesday evening stood outside what used to be his parents' two-story home.

The tornado that came from Lone Grove hit the Majestic Hills area just outside Ardmore, destroying the home. The National Weather Service estimated wind gusts reached 180 to 185 mph in the Majestic Hills area.

Pack was in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, and his girlfriend noticed a tornado warning for Carter County on television. He called his parents, Rick and Susan Pack. They went to their cellar and were joined by six neighbors.

“It was deafening like a thousand jet engines,” Rick Pack said.

Pawnee

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado was on the ground in Pawnee Tuesday, but it was news to Pawnee Fire Chief James Novotky.

“There is no evidence a tornado touched down,” he said Wednesday.

Novotny said the storm hit the southwest part of Pawnee County and tracked northeast to the city of Pawnee, striking the south side of the community.

“For the most part, there is a lot of structural damage in the county, a lot of outbuildings,” he said. “Inside the city, there are mostly downed tree limbs, and one camper trailer was turned over.”

About a dozen houses suffered roof damage, he said.

Damage in other communities

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management collected information on damage throughout the state.

Logan County reported 20 homes damaged, 16 in the Oak Cliff Fire District and four east of Guthrie. No injuries were reported.

Shawnee/Pottawotamie County reported damage to an Oklahoma Department of Transportation maintenance building two miles east of Tecumseh.

One house was damaged in Wilson in Carter County.

Two mobile homes were overturned and oil field equipment was damaged near Wardville in Coal County.

Two homes suffered major damage in Love County.

States of emergency

Henry declared a state of emergency Wednesday for 17 counties where Tuesday's tornadoes caused damage.

The counties in the governor's declaration are: Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Garvin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Logan, Love, Murray, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Nowata, Osage and Washington.

More counties can be added if conditions warrant.

Under the declaration, state agencies are allowed to make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the response to the disaster.

Henry said state officials are ready to provide eligible assistance.

“The state of emergency declaration strengthens our efforts to help those areas, but it also serves as a first step toward seeking federal assistance," Henry said.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland also declared a state of emergency. Her declaration will enable emergency claims adjusters to be licensed temporarily to expedite the insurance claims process and provide immediate assistance.

Oklahomans with insurance questions or concerns are encouraged to contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-522-0071.

CONTRIBUTING: Staff Writers Bryan Painter, Michael McNutt, Ron Jackson, James Tyree, Michael Kimball, Sheila Stogsdill and Ken Raymond


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