Storms, tornadoes slam state

Friday, May 2nd 2008, 8:24 am
By: News 9

Associated Press 

Authorities were assessing damage early Friday after two rounds of severe thunderstorms raked across parts of Oklahoma. 

The first round of storms produced at least two tornadoes on Thursday night, causing some damage but no injuries. Another line of storms passed through the state during the overnight hours, with strong straight-line winds causing power outages in parts of the Oklahoma City metro area. 

A wind gust of 74 mph was recorded early Friday at Will Rogers World Airport in southwest Oklahoma City. The storm also produced some small hail.

According to the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Web site, 1,829 customers were without power shortly after 6:30 a.m., with 700 of them in the Oklahoma City metro area and 429 in the small LeFlore County town of Panama in far eastern Oklahoma.

AEP-Public Service Company of Oklahoma had about 1,100 outages, spokesman Ed Bettinger said Friday morning.

"We had about 3,000 at the peak in northeast Oklahoma," Bettinger said. "We expect to have everyone back on by noon."

Thursday night, during the first round of storms, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper spotted a funnel cloud that eventually touched down southwest of Glencoe in Payne County, Trooper Betsy Randolph said. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Northeast of that area, television footage showed a large, cone-shaped tornado touch down near Pawnee, about 55 miles northwest of Tulsa. A tornado estimated at 100 yards wide was reported near Ralston and another twister was spotted west of Pawhuska, Osage County Emergency Management Director Howard Pattison said.

"I haven't heard of any injuries or damage, other than some trees and stuff," Pattison said.

Pawnee County Commissioner Joe Allenbaugh, who also serves as the county's emergency management director, said no homes suffered damage from the tornado there, although trees were uprooted and fences knocked down in rural areas.

In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, it wasn't immediately clear if a tornado or straight-line winds ripped the roof off a building and deposited it in a field nearby in Choctaw, east of Oklahoma City. Storm trackers also reported seeing sheet metal wrapped around a telephone pole in the same area.

Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, who lives in Choctaw, said he saw additional roof damage in the town and dozens of deputies' cars were damaged by hail.

"Our yard was totally covered with golf ball-sized hail," Whetsel said.

Oklahoma County Emergency Management Director David Barnes said there was wind damage, but no confirmation of twisters. Storm trackers reported seeing a brief tornado in the area and debris flying through the air. 

"The jury is still kind of out on what happened there," said Kevin Brown, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Norman. "If it was a tornado, it was very weak and very brief."

In Midwest City, hail the size of golf balls broke the windshields of numerous vehicles, including those at a car dealership.

Sean Farnham, the used cars manager for David Stanley Dodge, said some signs were hit and there was hail damage to vehicles, but officials didn't know the extent.

"We'll assess the damage to property and collateral damage in the morning," Farnham said. "We're just glad nobody got hurt."

Brown said early damage reports from the Oklahoma County storm included some downed power poles and damage to outbuildings.

"We were very fortunate," he said. "Thankfully the storm that appeared to be the strongest appeared to be in mainly rural areas ... and not in the populated areas."