Tornadoes in central US kill nearly two dozen people

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NOAA Doppler Radar image of storms after the tornadoes hit.

At least 23 people have been killed in late afternoon in broad daylight, with dark (very dark) clouds tornadoes that ripped through the central United States on Saturday May 10 with over 150 reported injured and at least three people are missing. Tornadoes hit towns on the Missouri and Oklahoma borders which caused significant damage. Several watches and warnings for storms and tornadoes remain today. At 4:11 a.m. (eastern time) on Sunday, nearly the entire states of Georgia and Alabama were encompassed with tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings.

In Picher, Oklahoma where the tornado is reported to have started, 7 were killed, including an infant. The tornado then traveled across state lines to Missouri where 14 were killed near Seneca and then into Georgia where two people were killed. Officials state the death toll is likely to climb.

"It’s a bad deal. There are maybe 150 badly damaged homes on south side of town," said Picher's town attorney, Erick Johnson. More than two dozen streets in Picher are described as being wiped out. Oklahoma's governor Brad Henry has ordered the national guard to the area to help in aiding those hit by the storms.

"[Our] thoughts and prayers are with the people of Picher and all of the other Oklahoma communities," said Henry in a statement to the press, who also plans to visit the areas hardest hit on Sunday.

Ottawa County Oklahoma, where Picher is located.

Buildings have been destroyed and people have been reported to be trapped in debris from tornadoes that touched down. Trees were thrown from yards and cars were overturned. Tornadoes were also reported in Arkansas and in Oklahoma, one tornado left more than 15 miles of destruction with some places seeing a path over a half mile wide. Rescue efforts are hampered by the darkness, making it difficult for rescuers to find people who are trapped.

"It's hard to do in the dark. They're going over the hard-hit area and turning over everything and looking," said Susie Stonner, a spokeswoman for SEMA.

At last count, 34 tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, but reports say that some eyewitness accounts were of the same tornadoes. At 02:48 (UTC) on Sunday morning, Doppler radar for the National Weather Service showed very strong storms in Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi.


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