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Strange tornadoes tore path across Oklahoma last week

Mondays tornadoes were unusual for May, a mass of churning supercells that moved at high speeds.

BY KEN RAYMOND Modified: May 16, 2010 at 12:35 am •  Published: May 16, 2010

An EF-3 about five miles northwest of Pink stayed on the ground for about nine miles, ending about five miles northwest of Shawnee. A more devastating tornado — another EF-4 — stretched at least 16 miles from Norman to Little Axe, killing Rider and injuring her three children. The twister hit their trailer home near Rock Creek Road and Harrah-Newalla Road.

The Norman tornado spun cars near U.S. 77 and State Highway 9. Shoppers took shelter in the freezer of the Country Boy IGA grocery store.

A second Norman tornado, an EF-1, ended about four miles southeast of the city before a more damaging EF-2 hit near Lake Thunderbird, destroying the Little River Marina.

‘I felt like I was going to die’
Destructive EF-3 tornadoes hit portions of Tecumseh and Seminole.

About 100 Tecumseh homes were destroyed, and about 400 in the area sustained damage. The hardest-hit area was on Highland Street, where Holly Starkey and her 61-year-old mother sought refuge in a residential bathroom.

The twister destroyed the home.

"It was so fast,” Starkey said. "Thirty seconds took everything.”

Thirty Seminole families were left homeless. The Seminole Municipal Airport sustained an estimated $2 million or more in damage, not counting damage to planes.

Yolanda Suarez’s trailer home was lifted and torn.

The portion she was hiding in got pinned by a fallen tree.

"I felt like I was going to die,” she said.

As the tornadoes moved into the eastern part of the state, they diminished in intensity, falling into the EF-1 to EF-0 range.

They continued to do damage, ripping the roof from the Boley police station, destroying mobile homes and outbuildings and downing trees and power lines. Two people were trapped in an overturned trailer at Brewer’s Bend Campground in Webbers Falls.

‘Unusual’ combination of storms’ size, speed
By the time it was over, three lives had ended: Rider, Patterson and an unknown woman who suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to get to a shelter.

At least 118 people were treated for injuries. Of those, at least five were in critical condition.

Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency for more than two-thirds of Oklahoma’s counties. Millions of dollars of damage had been done, most in the space of moments.

"We can have storms that move 50 or 60 mph,” meteorologist Smith said.

"Those are usually in March or early April. And we can have tornadic supercells. Not as many as we had, but they’re not unusual.

"Putting those two things together, a line of tornadic supercells moving 50 or 60 mph — that’s unusual. That’s really strange.”

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