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Oklahoma tornadoes: Traffic congestion added to tornado hazards

People in central Oklahoma hurried to take shelter Tuesday, causing problems on the roadways, including a death in Edmond. Officials recommend drivers get out of their vehicles when tornadoes are reported.
BY DIANA BALDWIN dbaldwin@opubco.com Published: May 26, 2011
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Tuesday's tornado outbreak points out the dangers of being on roads and highways when severe weather hits.

A woman was killed in a head-on accident in Edmond as she sought shelter away from her home, said Edmond police officer James Hamm.


Three bodies were found along Interstate 40 west of El Reno. Officials don't know whether the victims were trying to seek shelter along the roadway or were sucked out of their vehicles. Their bodies were found 300 to 400 yards from the interstate, said Chris West, Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesman.

“People were driving in a panic,” Hamm said. “They were worried and driving a faster speed than usual. It is hard to say what was going through their minds.

“People were rushing home, and they couldn't get anywhere. Driving turned out to be more hazardous.”

Traffic backs up

Many businesses and schools closed early to give people a chance to get home before the storms Tuesday afternoon. This led to significant traffic congestion in some areas.

Traffic along Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City was bumper to bumper. Interstates 35 and 40 were reported backed up. Traffic on I-40 west of El Reno was stopped when emergency workers had reports of a tornado about to cross the interstate.

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