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Twister's toll becomes clearer in Oklahoma

Fatality count drops but damage reports continue to pour in to state officials. Gov. Brad Henry declares a state of emergency for 56 counties.

FROM STAFF REPORTS Modified: May 12, 2010 at 10:08 am •  Published: May 12, 2010

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 Axe
John 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.

In 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. Share your photos (for user submission) Sign/view a guest book for the victims Watches and Warnings National Weather Service map of preliminary tornado tracks iPhone Weather App Weather Blog Know It: Severe Weather has disabled the comments for this article.

Twisters’ toll

Deaths: At least three died, including a woman who died of a heart attack while trying to get to a storm shelter. State emergency management workers have said there were six deaths, including the heart attack victim, but the state medical examiner’s office has confirmed only three.

Injuries: More than 100 people were treated at Oklahoma hospitals for storm-related injuries. At least five were hospitalized in critical condition, according to hospital officials.

Tornadoes: More than a dozen tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma during Monday’s outbreak, according to the National Weather Service in Norman. They occurred along a path stretching from the Red River to the Kansas-Oklahoma state line.

Warnings: The weather service in Norman issued 31 tornado warnings and 19 severe thunderstorm warnings Monday.

Damage: The state Department of Emergency Management reported more than 100 homes and 40 businesses destroyed and more than 130 homes damaged.

State of emergency: Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency for 56 Oklahoma counties: Alfalfa, Atoka, Beaver, Blaine, Bryan, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Garvin, Grady, Grant, Harper, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Love, Marshall, Mayes, McIntosh, McClain, Murray, Muskogee, Noble, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens, Tillman, Tulsa, Washita and Woodward.


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