Second tornado in five weeks damages Oklahoma city and causes one death as powerful storms hit central US | News, sports, jobs

A tornado spins west of Hawley, Texas, as cars pass US 277 on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Ronald W. Erdrich/The Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A tornado destroyed homes, forced the evacuation of a nursing home and toppled trees and power lines as it ripped through a small Oklahoma town, one of several to erupt in the central United States amid a series of powerful storms that extended into today. At least one death was reported.

The tornado ripped through the 1,000-person town of Barnsdall, about a 40-minute drive north of Tulsa, on Monday evening. It was the second tornado to hit the city in five weeks: An April 1 tornado with maximum winds of 90 to 100 miles per hour damaged homes and blew down trees and utility poles in Barnsdall.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center cited 17 reports of tornadoes from Monday evening through earlier today in the central United States. Eight of the twisters were in Oklahoma, two each in Kansas, South Dakota and Iowa, and one each in Nebraska, Missouri and Tennessee.

At least 30 to 40 homes in the Barnsdall area were damaged Monday evening, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported, and a nursing home said it evacuated residents after a gas leak could not be stopped due to storm damage. Numerous road closures due to debris have also been reported, according to Osage County Emergency Management.

One person died in Barnsdall and at least one is missing, Osage County Undersheriff Gary Upton said by phone.

“It’s a small town and it pretty much ran right through the center,” he said.

The Barnsdall Nursing Home posted online that all residents were without injuries. They were taken to other facilities. Families were asked to be patient with them “as there is chaos in the city… Please pray for us.”

Damage was also reported in Bartlesville, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast.

“We took a direct hit from a tornado” in the city, said Kary Fox of Washington County Emergency Management. “Please stay off the roads. Stay away from the damaged areas. We have a lot of difficulty getting in to do assessments to check on people, to see if they have been injured by the traffic congestion.”

According to Joe Sellers, a meteorologist with the weather service’s office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a survey team planned to go out today to assess damage in Barnsdall and Bartlesville, and in Arkansas.

The Storm Prediction Center warned today of an increased risk of severe thunderstorms in the Ohio Valley with the possibility of few, potentially strong, tornadoes, hail and heavy, damaging winds.

The biggest threat shifted east today, said Roger Edwards, chief forecaster at the center, although the threat is not as intense as on Monday.

The weather service in Tulsa had warned Monday evening that “a large and life-threatening tornado” was moving toward Barnsdall, packing winds of up to 75 miles per hour. Meteorologist Brad McGavock said information about the size of the tornado and how far it traveled was not immediately available Monday evening.

The storms started earlier Monday with gusty winds and rain. But tornadoes were seen along northern Oklahoma after dark. At some point in the evening, a storm in the small town of Covington had “produced intermittent tornadoes for more than an hour,” according to the National Weather Service. Throughout the area, wind farm turbines were spinning rapidly in the wind and blinding rain.

In Kansas, some areas were pelted by apple-sized hail with a diameter of 3 inches.

The storms tore through Oklahoma as areas including Sulfur and Holdenville were still recovering from a tornado that killed four people and left thousands without power late last month. Both the Plains and the Midwest have been ravaged by tornadoes this spring.

Oklahoma’s State Emergency Operations Center, which is coordinating the storm response from a bunker near the Capitol, remains activated after last weekend’s deadly storms.

Monte Tucker, a farmer and rancher in the western Oklahoma town of Sweetwater, had some of his tractors and heavy equipment stored in sheds Monday to protect them from hail. He said he let his neighbors know they could come to his house if the weather turned dangerous.

“We built a house 10 years ago, and my stubborn wife put her foot down and made sure we built a safe room,” Tucker said. He said the entire ground floor room is built with reinforced concrete walls.

Oklahoma and Kansas are under a high risk weather warning on Monday. The last time such a warning was issued was on March 31, 2023, when a massive storm system tore through parts of the South and Midwest, including Arkansas, Illinois and rural Indiana.

The whole week looks stormy in the US. The eastern US and the south are expected to bear the brunt of the bad weather for the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati, cities with more than 21 million people. It should be clear by the weekend.

Meanwhile, floodwaters in the Houston area began receding Monday after days of heavy rains in southeastern Texas flooded neighborhoods and led to hundreds of high-water rescues.

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