Shawnee (Oklahoma), May 20: Tornadoes ravaged portions of Oklahoma on Sunday, reducing portions of a mobile home park to rubble and killing a 79-year-old man whose body was found out in the open.
The tornado in Shawnee was one of several that touched down in the nation's midsection Sunday. Twisters, hail and high winds also struck Iowa and Kansas as part of a massive, northeastward-moving storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota.
“You can see where there's absolutely nothing, then there are places where you have mobile home frames on top of each other, debris piled up,” Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said after surviving damage in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park. “It looks like there's been heavy equipment in there on a demolition tour.
“It's pretty bad. It's pretty much wiped out,” he said.
Across Oklahoma, 21 people were injured, not including those who suffered bumps and bruises and chose not to visit a hospital, said Keli Cain, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Booth said six at Steelman Estates were hurt.
Forecasters had been warning of a general storm outbreak since Wednesday, and for Sunday's storms some residents had more than a half-hour's notice that a twister was on the way. Tornado watches and warnings were in effect through late Sunday in much of the nation's midsection.
The trailer park was among the hardest-hit areas, and among the hardest to reach, as overturned tractor-trailers forced the closure of a section of a highway and power lines draped across roads to the south.
James Hoke lives with his wife and two children in Steelman Estates. He said the family went into their storm cellar as the storm approached. When they came out, their mobile home had vanished.
“It took a dead hit,” Hoke said.
A storm spotter told the National Weather Service that the tornado left the earth “scoured” at the mobile home park—using a term used by storm chasers to describe grass being ripped out by high winds.
Gov. Mary Fallin declared an emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties that suffered from severe storms and flooding during the weekend. The declaration lets local governments acquire goods quickly to respond to their residents' needs and puts the state in line for federal help if it becomes necessary.