Storm-Struck Areas Assess Destruction State Wheat Crops Flattened by Hail

Michael McNutt Published: May 26, 1998
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LAMONT - A cluster of tornadoes that battered homes and farms in the Lamont area Sunday night cut a path of destruction in some areas as wide as a quarter-mile and caused an estimated $2 million damage, officials said Monday.

The tornadoes hit five houses, destroying three of them, officials said.

In central parts of Oklahoma, tornado warning sirens sounded in Oklahoma City and surrounding communities about 5:20 a.m. Monday. The sirens sent people scurrying toward storm shelters and closets but no injuries or damage were reported from high winds and hail.

In Piedmont, lightning hit a house at 1911 Washington Ave. NE about 5:15 a.m., Fire Chief Rick Lofgren said.

A family of four people in the house escaped injury.

Family members had just covered a sport-utility vehicle with a tarp to protect it from hail damage and rushed back into the house when lightning struck.

The bolt caused $40,000 in damage and a small fire that was controlled by Oklahoma City and Piedmont firefighters within 15 minutes, Lofgren said.

Elsewhere, no one was reported hurt during the tornadoes and storms that hit Grant County about 9 p.m. Sunday.

At least six tornadoes were spotted in the air near Wakita - where the movie "Twister" was filmed three years ago. Hail and strong winds were reported in Medford as the storm moved southeast.

In the Medford area, a tornado damaged barns and other outbuildings west of town, but no injuries were reported, a Grant County sheriff's dispatcher said.

Electrical power was knocked out after the storm damaged power lines.

The scene was similar in Woods and Alfalfa counties, sheriff's offices reported. Strong straight winds overturned and destroyed a mobile home in Alva , a jailer said. No one was in the trailer at the time.

The storms also produced hail, heavy rain and high wind that did varying amounts of damage to wheat fields in northern Oklahoma, only days from harvest.

The brunt of the storm hit the Lamont area about 30 miles southeast of Wakita. Residents of the town and the surrounding area huddled at the Lamont school.

A brick house was shredded. A dairy building was flattened. Trucks and tractors were tossed around like toys.

"Everything that was in its direct path, it picked up and took," said Kyle Kirby, who lives about a mile southwest of Lamont. "My grain bin - it took it. I don't know where it's at. It's just plumb gone. My feed mill - I'm talking about something that's 30 feet high and probably 50 feet in diameter - it just took it."

Debris that wasn't swept away was dropped into nearby wheat fields. Most of the wheat in the area was knocked down by wind or shredded by debris. Baseball-size hail near Medford also pulverized some wheat fields.

Lamont was busy Monday as cleanup crews and neighbors swept into the area.

"There were trees stacked probably 15 feet deep right in the middle of the road," said Doug Hern, a county road foreman.

Behind the road workers came crews from OG&E Electric Services to replace power poles snapped by tornadoes. Crews were called in from Oklahoma City, Muskogee and Sapulpa.

More than 70 large power poles were ripped down in a three-mile stretch along a county road. OG&E crews worked until 10 p.m. Monday trying to restore power.

The tornadoes hit quickly. Stanley Schuelein said he didn't have time to run to a storm shelter outside his brick house about two miles southeast of Lamont.

"When we heard the glass start breaking, we knew it was too late," he said.

Schuelein said his family ran to the shower.

"Everything trembled," he said. "You could hear the glass breaking and things hitting the roof.

"It lasted a long time. We commented that tornadoes aren't just supposed to last this long. I think we had three shots. It kind of quit, and then it came on and things were crashing and glass would break. And then it got quiet again and then it came again."

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