As tornadoes spun across central Oklahoma on Friday, thousands of panicked residents tried to outrun the storm in their cars on flooded streets and highways.
They drove into chaos.
Interstates already packed with rush-hour traffic became parking lots. And, as the first and most powerful of the five tornadoes hit near El Reno, inside a car became a dangerous place to be.
Seven of those killed by tornadoes Friday were in vehicles in Canadian County, the sheriff there said.
“I don't know why that is,” Sheriff Randall Edwards said. “I think it just happened so quick people couldn't see the funnel or whatever.”
So far, the death toll from Friday's tornadoes stands at nine people — two children and seven adults, the medical examiner's office reported.
Two of the tornado victims remained unidentified late Saturday afternoon. The medical examiner's office did not release any of the names of the dead.
Among those killed were a mother and a baby who were in a sport utility vehicle on Interstate 40, near Cimarron Road, authorities said.
Their vehicle was sucked up into the tornado, Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said.
“We had troopers who actually witnessed this happen,” Randolph said. “It was a mom, dad and three children. The mom and the baby did not survive but the dad and the two other children did.”
Also killed on or near I-40 was Dustin Bridges, 32, his brother-in-law, Tracy Allen, said.
“He was just right in the path … It got him and a co-worker that was in the same vehicle with him,” Allen said.
Bridges is from Wilburton but stayed in an apartment in Yukon during the week because of his work for an oil field equipment company. His brother-in-law said the co-worker survived.
“It's a tough deal. He was everybody's friend. … He'd give you the shirt off his back. I'm going to miss him,” Allen said.
Two of the tornado victims were men in cars in Union City, Police Chief Eddie Dickerson said. One died at the scene while the other died after being taken to a hospital, he said.
Some who tried to drive away from the storm were thinking of the destruction in Moore caused by a powerful tornado there May 20. The death toll from the May 20 tornado has been put at 24.
“It was chaos. People were going southbound in the northbound lanes. Everybody was running for their lives,” said Terri Black, 51, a teacher's assistant in Moore.
“My car was actually lifted off the road and then set back down,” Black said. “The trees were leaning literally to the ground. The rain was coming down horizontally in front of my car. Big blue trash cans were being tossed around like a piece of paper in the wind. I'll never do it again.”
Randolph, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, said, “I'm not sure why people do that sort of stuff, but it is very dangerous. It not only puts them in harm's way, but it adds to the congestion. It really is a bad idea for folks to do.”
Flooding from Friday's storm also claimed lives. A 4-year-old boy died Friday in Oklahoma City, a 65-year-old man died Saturday morning in eastern Oklahoma County and a 69-year-old woman died Saturday morning in Okfuskee County, authorities said.
It was unclear Saturday if the 4-year-old boy was among the nine dead described by the medical examiner's office as tornado victims.
Contributing: Staff Writers Juliana Keeping, Hannah Covington and Adam Kemp; The Associated Press