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Oklahoma tornadoes: 'It took it all'

Two confirmed dead in an outbreak of tornadoes that hit Oklahoma on Sunday.
by Randy Ellis Modified: May 20, 2013 at 12:25 am •  Published: May 19, 2013

Tornadoes ripped through central Oklahoma Sunday evening — leveling homes in or near Carney, Bethel Acres and Norman, overturning tractor-trailers on Interstate 40 near Shawnee and damaging roofs and trees in southeast Edmond.

The state medical examiner has released the name of two men killed by the Sunday tornado that hit Pottawatomie County.

The victims are Glen Irish, 79, and Billy Hutchinson, 76, both of Shawnee.

For a time, two people were missing from a mobile home park there, but they were later found safe, the sheriff said. Bulldozers were brought in Sunday night to help clear debris.

At least 21 injuries were reported by the state Health Department.

Five people injured in the storm were taken to Norman Regional Hospital, including three who were critically injured, hospital spokeswoman Kelly Wells said.

The Norman hospital received three male and two female victims, who range in age from 33 to 76 years old, Wells said.

Paramedics were continuing to search for victims late Sunday, she said.

Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 16 counties, noting initial reports of damage in numerous communities including Bethel Acres, Carney, Edmond, Little Axe, Norman, Shawnee and Wellston.

Emergency management officials reported dozens of homes were destroyed. How many could not be determined amid the chaos that immediately followed the storms.

Booth said at least 30 to 35 homes were destroyed in Pottawatomie County and numerous other homes were damaged.

Norman Emergency Management officials said about 30 to 40 homes were destroyed or damaged in their jurisdiction.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reported more than 23,000 power outages.

Four people were injured and taken to local hospitals with injuries after a tornado struck the I-40-U.S. 177 overpass just west of Shawnee — overturning three tractor-trailers and damaging four other vehicles.

Emergency personnel were working Sunday evening to extract two other people from vehicles — forcing closure of the interstate.

Truck driver David Bergquist said he hunkered down under the I-40 bridge near Shawnee as the tornado bore down on him.

“What they did on ‘Twister’ was pretty damn accurate,” he said of a movie that featured the awesome destructive power of a tornado.

“All I lost was a windshield.”

Two more injuries were reported near Norman where two people were trapped in a home that collapsed near 156th and Franklin Road, about 1 mile northeast of Thunderbird Lake.

‘Stuff can be rebuilt’

At Carney, numerous homes and other structures were destroyed or heavily damaged, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, a Lincoln County emergency management dispatcher said.

About a mile south of Carney, Janee Keiser said she, her mother, her daughter and two granddaughters hid in a cellar while a tornado destroyed their home.

“It’s gone — all the buildings, all the cars,” Keiser said. “It took the garage, the barn, the shed — it took it all ... But we’re all fine and that’s the most important thing. The other stuff can be rebuilt.”

Marlena Hodson of 906 Neva St., in Carney, said her home also was destroyed, along with numerous homes along Hanmer Park.

“We had a house, a travel trailer, a Jeep, a Volkswagen car and dock on our pond. They all blew away,” she said. “But we are absolutely fabulous. Nobody got hurt and the freezer has still got ice cream.”

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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