Image: Okla. tornado damage
Sue Ogrocki  /  AP
Houses lie in shambles in the mobile home community of Prairie Creek Village in Slaughterville, Okla., after a tornado ripped through Monday, May 10.
updated 5/11/2010 3:32:09 PM ET 2010-05-11T19:32:09

Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains killed five people and injured dozens more, leaving behind flattened homes, toppled semitrailers and downed power lines.

Several tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma and Kansas on Monday as the storms moved through the area, dumping hail as big as baseballs and leaving tens of thousands of people without power.

"The kids and I got in the closet and prayed," said Jamie Keyes, of Norman, an Oklahoma City suburb that is home to the University of Oklahoma. "I heard a hiss. It was like something was whistling very loud."

Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay refused to rule out the possibility of finding more dead, but said conditions were tough for rescue workers early Tuesday.

"We have heavy fog (and) power lines down making it difficult to see all the hazards out there. We'll wait for more sunshine to resume our search."

Emergency authorities in Oklahoma City urged residents to stay off the roads in affected areas to allow rescue workers to search for survivors among the wreckage.

Police Capt. Patrick Stewart said officers closed off four neighborhoods because gas leaks, downed power lines and debris on the ground had made conditions hazardous.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry Lojka said two people were killed in Oklahoma City and three were killed in Cleveland County, south of the city. Oklahoma City officials said the fatalities there involved a young boy who was hit by debris in his home and a man whose recreational vehicle flipped over on top of him. Details on the Cleveland County deaths weren't immediately available.

Officials reported that at least 58 others were injured — two of them critically — in a tornado outbreak that forecasters had been predicting since last week.

'Hear stuff hitting the house'
In Norman — Cleveland County's largest city with about 106,000 residents — Tim Tegeler checked out the damage to his windows, air conditioner and fence at his home. Tegeler, his wife, their daughters and their pet fish had taken shelter in their laundry room until the storms passed.

"We saw it coming, but the best thing is my family's fine," Tegeler said.

Neighbor Linda Sugg was picking up debris in her front yard.

Video: Family trapped in cellar by deadly twister "You could just hear stuff hitting the house," said Sugg, who was in her home during the storms.

Near Seminole, about 60 miles east of Oklahoma City, at least two homes were leveled after a tornado went through, Emergency Management Director Ernie Willis said. The town's airport suffered extensive damage and several planes there were destroyed, he said.

Gov. Brad Henry said he would tour affected areas Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 56 Oklahoma counties.

The weather was expected to be more settled the day after the storm, said meteorologist Ty Judd with the National Weather Service in Norman.

"There is a chance of thunderstorms later this afternoon," Judd said early Tuesday. "We're not looking at what we saw yesterday."

Judd said a preliminary estimate counted 10 tornado touchdowns in Oklahoma Monday.

East of Oklahoma City, widespread destruction led authorities to shut down Interstate 40, a major east-west route.

Interstate 35, which runs from Mexico to Minnesota, also was closed briefly at the Kansas-Oklahoma border because overturned tractor-trailers blocked all lanes. At Moore, near Oklahoma City, trucks were overturned in the median, but the road remained open.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said more than 65,000 homes and businesses were without power.

In Kansas, the most serious damage was reported in Belmont. Several homes were hit in the town east of Topeka and there were widespread power outages. But no injuries were reported.

'Multiple tornadic portions'
Oklahoma City and its suburbs saw three storms develop Monday afternoon just to the west and each caused damage as they moved across an area home to 1.2 million people. The northern storm caused property damage near Edmond; two storms to the south turned into killers.

Slideshow: Deadly twisters "We've had a very strange event: multiple tornadic portions with this event as it came through," said David Barnes, the emergency management director for Oklahoma County. "We have multiple vehicles overturned, a housing addition has had multiple homes destroyed."

In Alfalfa County, Sheriff Charlie Tucker said baseball-sized hail broke the windshields of numerous cars and damaged homes.

"I came home once to look at my own personal vehicle and the windshield was all bashed out. The grandchildren's swing set was up and now it's gone, so there was straight-line winds that came through," Tucker said.

The Storm Prediction Center at Norman had predicted tornadoes, saying the atmosphere had the right mix of winds, heat and moisture. One twister touched down just east of the center's building on the University of Oklahoma campus.

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Video: Deadly twisters tear through Oklahoma

  1. Transcript of: Deadly twisters tear through Oklahoma

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to the Southern US Plains , the scene of death and destruction after a swarm of tornadoes plowed through Oklahoma and Kansas . There are early reports of 37 separate twisters through that one corridor. Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel is with us tonight from Norman , Oklahoma . Mike , good evening .

    MIKE SEIDEL reporting: Good evening , Brian . It was the busiest tornado day in just over a year. The hardest-hit area was right here in Oklahoma City , the most tornado-prone city in the world.

    Offscreen Voice #1: Big multivortex!

    SEIDEL: The first of the tornadoes hit at rush hour.

    Offscreen Voice #2: This tornado just laid down on the ground and absolutely chewed up everything.

    SEIDEL: The violent twisters cut a wide path of destruction , killing five people and injuring dozens more.

    Unidentified Woman #1: We shut the door and we're in the closet just in the nick of time , and everything went. I looked up, and the roof was gone.

    SEIDEL: Throughout Oklahoma , buildings were reduced to rubble. Rescue crews spent today searching through debris hoping to find survivors. Yesterday, after seeing warnings on TV and then spotting a twister out their window, Ray and Tammy Trumble hustled their two boys into an underground storm shelter.

    Mr. RAY TRUBMLE: As we're running to the shelter I saw it crossing the neighbor's house over there.

    SEIDEL: Seconds later they heard the tornado rumbling overhead.

    Voice #2: The tornado hit their garages, rolled it over on top of the storm shelter.

    SEIDEL: Once the storm had passed, debris trapped the family inside the shelter. For several tense moments neighbors and rescue crews used chainsaws and muscle to clear a path. Finally, one by one, they were all free, even Jersey the dog safe and sound .

    Unidentified Woman #2: Jersey , yay!

    Unidentified Woman #3: We knew somebody would find us.

    Unidentified Man #1: Thank you, everybody.

    Unidentified Man #2: Good job.

    Man #1: Yes, I'm OK. Everybody's OK.

    SEIDEL: That tornado threat will reramp again Wednesday. Keep on an eye on Texas through the Central Plains and through parts of the Midwest , especially that area between Oklahoma City , Kansas City and St. Louis. Tornadoes expected along with large hail. And after a record slow start to this tornado season through mid-April, Brian , in the past three weeks 20 people have lost

    their lives to twisters. Brian: Unbelievable scene there tonight in Norman , Oklahoma . Mike Seidel from The Weather Channel . Mike , thanks.



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