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UPDATE 7-Mom and baby among five killed as tornadoes rake Oklahoma City area
June 1, 2013 / 12:42 AM / in 5 years

UPDATE 7-Mom and baby among five killed as tornadoes rake Oklahoma City area

By Heide Brandes
    OKLAHOMA CITY, May 31 (Reuters) - Violent thunderstorms on
Friday produced tornadoes in central Oklahoma that killed five
people including a mother and her baby and menaced Oklahoma City
and its hard-hit suburb of Moore, authorities said.
    The mother and baby were killed while traveling on
Interstate 40, just west of Oklahoma City, when their vehicle
was picked up by the storm, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for
the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The interstate was shut down due to
the storm, with multiple crashes and injuries.
    Two of the deaths occurred in Union City and one was in El
Reno, west of Oklahoma City, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for
the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She could not
immediately confirm where the other deaths occurred.
    Some 40 to 50 people were being treated for storm-related
injuries, including five patients in critical condition, among
them a child, according to the Integris Health hospital system.
    National Weather Service meteorologists had earlier declared
a tornado emergency for parts of the Oklahoma City metropolitan
area, and a twister touched down in Moore, which was hit by a
massive EF-5 twister last week that killed 24 people.
    A tornado also rampaged down Interstate 40 toward Oklahoma
City, tipping over dozens of trucks, one witnesses said.
Television images showed downed power lines and tossed cars as
the storm systems dumped heavy rains, stranding motorists in
flood water.
   "For reasons that are not clear to me, more people took to
the roads, more than we expected. Everyone acted differently in
this storm, and as a result, it created an extremely dangerous
situation," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said.
    "I think we are still a little shaken by what happened in
Moore. We are still burying children and victims, so our
emotions are still strong," he added.
    Brandi Vanalphen, 30, was among the hundreds of drivers
trapped on traffic-snarled roads as she attempted to flee the
tornado system menacing the suburb of Norman.
    "What got me scared was being stuck in traffic with sirens
going off," she said. "I started seeing power flashes to the
north, and I said 'screw this.' I started driving on the
shoulder. People started driving over the grass."
    Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin told CNN that motorists stuck
on any freeway in the path of a twister should try to go in the
opposite direction to where the twister was coming from.
    "What we saw from the tornadoes that came through Moore and
the other ones last week was that people who were in cars on the
Interstate were killed," Fallin told CNN.
    Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis told CNN it was "unbelievable" that
Moore had been hit again. 
    
    CITYWIDE FLOODING
    Tim Oram, meteorologist for the National Weather Service,
said it was difficult to know exactly how many tornadoes had
touched down, but three major thunderstorms were potentially
producing tornadoes throughout the center of the state.
    The service later lifted a tornado warning for Oklahoma City
and surrounding areas, as flash floods in the wake of the storms
dunked parts of the sprawling metropolitan area - home to more
than 1.3 million people - under water.
    Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City was shut down as it
sheltered 1,200 people, local station KWTV reported.
    Storms also swept into neighboring Missouri, where Governor
Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.
    "Much of Missouri is experiencing dangerous severe weather
tonight, on the heels of several days of heavy rain," Nixon
said. "I urge Missourians to closely monitor weather conditions,
so they can take shelter or move to higher ground if needed."
    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported downed trees,
road closures and damage in the metro St. Louis area, but no
deaths or serious injuries.
    Power utilities Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Ameren said
171,000 customers were without power in Oklahoma, Missouri and
Illinois, which had been under a tornado warning on Thursday.
    On Thursday, storms in Oklahoma and Arkansas killed at least
three people, including Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter,
whose body was recovered early on Friday, said Keith Stephens, a
spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. 
    Authorities continued to search for a missing game warden on
the Fourche La Fave River. A man also died in Tull, Arkansas,
when a tree fell on his car, and a woman's body was found in
flood waters in Scott County on Friday.
    Large, long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells are
responsible for producing the strongest tornadoes, along with
large hail and other dangerous winds.
    Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as Springfield, Missouri, may all
be buffeted by Friday's severe weather and possible tornado
touchdowns, said Rich Thompson, a lead forecaster at the
National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman,
Oklahoma.
    The danger zone included Joplin, Missouri, he added. Joplin
was hit by a monster tornado that killed 161 people and
destroyed about 7,500 homes two years ago.

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