A day after a tornado outbreak spawned a dozen or more twisters across Oklahoma, survivors picked through the rubble and officials identified the dead. The number of fatalities dropped Tuesday evening. The state Department of Emergency Management said that three children the department had previously reported dead are actually alive and being treated at an Oklahoma City hospital. Two people, including the children’s mother, were killed in the tornado, according to the state medical examiner’s office. A third, a woman whose name has not been released, suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to get to a storm shelter. Tammy Rider, 29, of Newalla, was killed and her three children injured Monday when a tornado destroyed their mobile home near the intersection of Rock Creek Road and Harrah-Newalla Road. Rider’s two sons, Jason Smith, 8, and Ethan Rider, 3, were in critical condition, and her daughter, Reagan, 1, was in serious condition Tuesday at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. "I know she was an excellent mother,” said Ashley Christofferson, Tammy Rider’s niece. "She was loved by her mom. She was her only daughter.” Rider died of blunt force trauma, medical examiner spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said. Her death was accidental. Wilbern Patterson, 55, of Oregon, died after he stepped out of his recreational vehicle near SE 59 and Peebly Road, Ballard said. High winds blew the vehicle over on top of him. Patterson, who apparently was visiting relatives in Oklahoma, died of traumatic asphyxia, Ballard said. His death was accidental. More than 100 people were treated at hospitals for storm-related injuries. At least five — including Rider’s sons — were admitted in critical condition, hospitals reported.
Near Little AxeJohn Treadway, 78, owner of BJ’s Bar and Grill, east of the destroyed Country Boy grocery store on State Highway 9 near Little Axe, asked all of his customers to leave and go home when the storms started getting bad. He watched from his driveway as the storm worsened overhead. "I saw it getting together right up yonder,” he said, pointing to the west of his business. "Then I said the heck with it, went inside, grabbed a Coke and crouched behind the bar.” He heard the loud rush of the storm as it broke apart the grocery store just across the parking lot. When he emerged from the building, he saw several overturned vehicles and the remains of the store. Yellow and pink insulation hung on the branches of the trees around his bar, and hundreds of paper towel rolls were strewn behind it. What appeared to be a section of the grocery store roof had been pitched across the highway. Another piece had smashed into his old Ford pickup. "It was awful, but I guess I’m lucky,” he said. Only the roof to Treadway’s business was damaged.
TecumsehIn Tecumseh, a tornado ripped through a residential area near U.S. 177 and Highland Road. Tecumseh police, emergency management workers and members of the Pontotoc County Fire Department went from home to home in the neighborhood surveying the damage. They marked each house they checked with a neon orange X with a circle around it. By afternoon, Mike Potter, deputy director of emergency management, said the men had identified more than 100 homes that were destroyed and more than 200 that were damaged. Holly Starkey, 29, was at her home near Highland Road when she heard television reports of a tornado headed her way. Starkey and her 61-year-old mother ran into a bathroom for cover. When she closed the bathroom door, she was thrown back against the wall and onto the floor. "I was just looking down and praying,” she said. "I thought if I looked up the worst would happen.” Starkey and her family worked Tuesday to remove belongings they could salvage from the destroyed home. "It was so fast,” Starkey said. "Thirty seconds took everything.” About five houses to the west of Starkey’s on Highland Road, 75-year-old Mary Clark looked around counting her blessings. A large tree, more than two feet in diameter, was uprooted and split in half, crushing her neighbor’s car. "It was like the famous freight train they always talk about,” she said. "That’s exactly what it sounded like.” Clark’s home was only slightly damaged by a tree limb that had fallen on the roof of her garage. "I don’t know how all of this happened around us,” she said, surveying her neighborhood. Decimated homes like Starkey’s were steps away from homes that appeared to have little damage.
Oklahoma CityOklahoma City’s main water treatment plant remained without power Tuesday, leaving many across the southern metro area with low water pressure or no water at all. The water shortage prompted most metro- area cities to enact outdoor watering bans. Residents were ordered to cease outdoor watering and turn off sprinkler systems. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Brian Alford said he expected power to be restored by late Tuesday to the Lake Stanley Draper water treatment plant, which supplies half the city’s water. However, city officials were unsure how long it would take to restart the water filtering processes that were halted by the power outage. The filtering makes water safe to drink. "I can’t remember a time when it (the plant) just shut down like this,” Oklahoma City utilities spokeswoman Debbie Ragan said. "There will have to be a process of restarting pumps.” Oklahoma City water utility crews rerouted water from the city’s Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser plants to the southern metro area, but many customers were still without water Tuesday, Ragan said.
Tuesday’s weatherWhile crews were still out assessing Monday’s damage, a tornado watch was issued by the Norman forecast office for some counties in central, northwest, southwest and western Oklahoma. Severe weather is likely in Oklahoma again today. Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman, said there may be more warnings today, but the intensity of the storms will not be as great. Oklahoma County has now had at least 100 tornadoes since 1950, according to the weather service. Before Monday, there had been only three tornadoes in the state this year. That’s the slowest start in terms of tornadoes since officials began keeping statistics in 1950, said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. Oklahoma averages 53 tornadoes a year. The average for May is about 20. Last year, Oklahoma had only four confirmed tornadoes in May.