CBS/AP/ May 31, 2013, 8:52 PM

Tornado emergency issued in Oklahoma City

Updated at 8:52 p.m. ET

OKLAHOMA CITY The National Weather Service has issued a tornado emergency for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

Weather service forecaster Daryl Williams says the emergency issued Friday evening includes Oklahoma City and some suburbs. The weather service issues an emergency if a storm with tornadoes is heading toward large metropolitan area.

The warning also covered Moore, which was hit by a deadly storm last week.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsey Randolph says the OHP has shut down Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City and the OHP issued a warning for motorists to exit I-40 and seek shelter.

Aerial view of a tornado happening in Oklahoma, May 31, 2013.

/ CBS News

State troopers reported a number of injuries.

“Our big concern is to get people off the highways and get them safe,” Gov. Mary Fallin told CNN.

Storm chasers with cameras in their car transmitted video showing a number of funnels dropping from the supercell thunderstorm as it passed south of El Reno and into Oklahoma City just south of downtown. Police urged motorists to leave the crosstown Interstate 40 and seek a safe place.

The scene was eerily like that from last week, when blackened skies generated a top-of-the-scale EF5 storm with 210 mph winds, killing 24 people at Moore, on Oklahoma City’s south side. Friday’s storms were moving just to the north of Moore and appeared not to be as strong as last week’s storm.

“They’re just tooling around right now. They’re starting to dissipate a little bit,” said Nick Mosley, who works at the Love’s Travel Stop in El Reno. Motorists packed the store as the storm approached.

At Will Rogers World Airport southwest of Oklahoma City, passengers were directed into underground tunnels and inbound and outbound flights were canceled.

Damage was reported in Canadian County, immediately to the west of the capital city, and television cameras showed debris falling from the sky and power transformers being knocked out by high winds.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a number of motorists were injured and that a few were missing. Numerous vehicles were damaged, leaving motorists stranded on the sides of roads, Randolph said.

As the storm bore down on suburban Oklahoma City, Adrian Lillard, 28, of The Village, went to the basement of her mother’s office building with a friend, her nieces, nephews and two dogs.

“My brother’s house was in Moore, so it makes you take more immediate action,” Lillard said while her young nieces played on a blanket on the floor of the parking garage. “We brought toys and snacks to try our best to keep them comfortable.”

Well before Oklahoma’s first thunderstorms fired up at late afternoon, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman was already forecasting a violent evening. From the Texas border to near Joplin, Mo., residents were told to keep an eye to the sky and an ear out for sirens.

Forecasters warned of a “particularly dangerous situation,” with ominous language about strong tornadoes and hail the size of grapefruits — 4 inches in diameter.

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What factors led to lives being saved in this week’s tornadoes?

CBS News weather consultant David Bernard reported Friday evening that unfortunately, we have those tornado watches in some of the same places we’ve had them from the last couple of nights. Most of them right now are located in Oklahoma, also into southeastern Kansas, and a good chunk of southwestern and central Missouri, numerous severe thunderstorms ongoing right now — also a severe thunderstorm watch covering eastern Minnesota and a good portion of northern and central portions of Wisconsin.

Looking ahead to Saturday, Bernard continued, we have a wide area of potential severe weather extending from central and north Texas right through the Missouri River valley into the Midwest, as far north as Michigan and extending as far east it looks like as portions of Ohio.

Earlier, flash flooding and tornadoes killed three people in Arkansas as powerful storms swept through the nation’s midsection, including a local sheriff who drowned while checking on residents whose house was eventually swamped by rising water, authorities said Friday. Three other people are missing.

The storms rolled across the region overnight, and more bad weather was poised to strike Friday, with tornadoes and baseball-sized hail forecast from Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. Flooding also is a concern in parts of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois through Sunday.

Torrential rain, including at least 6 inches in the rugged terrain of western Arkansas, posed the greatest danger the night before. In Y City, about 125 miles west of Little Rock, the Fourche La Fave River rose 24 feet in just 24 hours.

“The water just comes off that hill like someone is pouring a bucket in there,” said Danny Straessle, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation. “This was an incredible amount of water.”

 

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