Deadly storms batter Missouri, Oklahoma

Sunday, May 11th 2008, 8:05 am
By: News 9

At least 19 people were killed in Oklahoma and Missouri on Saturday as tornadoes and other severe weather swept across the Midwest, according to emergency management agencies in both states.

A tornado touched down about 5:42 p.m. in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, killing seven people and heavily damaging buildings in a 20-block area, the service said.

Michelann Ooten, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said there were a number of people unaccounted for in Picher, Oklahoma.

She said the town enlisted the help of firefighters from surrounding areas who went house-to-house, sifting through the rubble and searching for survivors.

"I know they are going through the rubble, trying to find people missing," Ooten told The Associated Press. "There are numerous injuries."

"It looks like a war zone," she said. "Some homes have fallen in, some homes have lost roofs, and some are now just slabs."

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. George Brown said Picher's victims included an infant, AP reported Sunday.

"We've seen homes that were completely leveled to the foundation," Brown said. "In a few of these homes you would have had to be subterranean to survive."

Ottawa County Emergency Manager Frank Geasland told AP that dozens of people were injured, some seriously.

"Trees are toppled over, ripped apart," he said. "There are cars thrown everywhere. It looks like a bomb went off, pretty much."

According to AP, other tornadoes were reported near McAlester and Haywood in Pittsburg County and in rural Pushmataha County, both in southeastern Oklahoma.

Television footage showed some destroyed outbuildings and damaged homes west of McAlester and near Haywood. At a glass plant southwest of McAlester, the storm apparently picked up a trailer and slammed it down on garbage bins.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry planned to visit the area Sunday.

Weather officials said a tornado touched down about 6 p.m. between Seneca and Neosho near the Missouri-Kansas border. Numerous injuries were reported, and U.S. 60, which runs into Interstate 44, was closed due to debris covering the road.

Ten people were killed in the community of Racine in Newton County, Missouri, according to emergency officials.

About 6:20 p.m., a person was killed when thunderstorms knocked a tree onto a mobile home about four miles east of Carthage, Missouri, the weather service reported. And less than an hour later, another person was killed when a tornado damaged a church and several homes and mobile homes in the area of Purdy, Missouri.

Authorities fear there may be additional casualties in Missouri, said Susie Stonner, spokeswoman with the State Emergency Management Agency in Jefferson City, Missouri.

"It's dark and it was over a wide area. Some of the houses have been completely destroyed," she said. "There's a possibility there will be additional people."

In storm-weary Arkansas, a tornado collapsed a home and a business, and there were reports of a few people trapped in buildings, Weather Service meteorologist John Robinson told AP.

The AP reported Central Park Elementary School in the northwest Arkansas city of Bentonville had roof and window damage, and damage was also reported at Pine Creek Center School.

The severe weather was expected to continue overnight, moving east out of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma and into the southeastern states, the National Weather Service said.

Storms were expected to calm Sunday morning before intensifying in Georgia and the Carolinas again in the afternoon.

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