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Tornado rips through northeastern Oklahoma, leaving a trail of damage in its wake

Tornado rips through northeastern Oklahoma, leaving a trail of damage in its wake

A tornado destroyed homes and toppled trees and power lines as it ripped through a small northeastern Oklahoma town, one of the several tornadoes that broke out in the central United States amid a series of powerful storms.

The tornado ripped through the 1,000-resident town of Barnsdall, about a 40-minute drive north of Tulsa, on Monday evening. The nearby town of Bartlesville also took a “direct hit” from a funnel, Washington County Emergency Management Director Kary Cox said..

Stephen Nehrenz, a meteorologist with CBS Tulsa affiliate KOTV, said on social media late Monday: “The Hampton Inn in Bartlesville was affected by tonight’s tornado. Reports say they lost most of the building’s roof. So far, it seems like almost everyone there is okay, as we initially heard.”

Law enforcement officers and residents were assessing damage in a Barnsdall neighborhood when lightning flashed and heavy rain fell, local TV news footage showed. The tornado tore off the roof of a house before spitting it back out onto the street. Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden told KOTV that there were no confirmed fatalities as of 11 p.m. local time.

The station quoted Osage County Emergency Management saying there were confirmed reports of numerous injuries and widespread damage. OCEM said many people were trapped in their homes and had downed power lines, and concerns about possible gas leaks made it difficult to respond. County officials are working to clear the roads.

Search and rescue efforts are underway on the Osage Nation reservation, authorities said.

About 28,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma were in the dark as of 3:30 a.m. local time.

The National Weather Service in Tulsa had warned earlier in the evening that “a large and life-threatening tornado” was moving toward Barnsdall, with winds up to 75 miles per hour. Meteorologist Brad McGavock said information about the size of the tornado and how far it traveled was not immediately available Monday evening.

The storms started earlier Monday with gusty winds and rain. But tornadoes were seen along northern Oklahoma after dark. At some point in the evening, a storm in the small town of Covington had “produced tornadoes for more than an hour,” according to the National Weather Service. All over the area, wind farm turbines were spinning rapidly in the wind and blinding rain.

In Kansas, some areas were pelted by apple-sized hail with a diameter of 3 inches.

The storms tore through Oklahoma as areas like Sulfur and Holdenville were still recovering from a tornado that killed four people and left thousands without power late last month. Both the Plains and the Midwest have been ravaged by tornadoes this spring.

Oklahoma’s State Emergency Operations Center, which is coordinating the storm response from a bunker near the state capital of Oklahoma City, was still activated after last weekend’s deadly storms.

The weather service said more than 3.4 million people, 1,614 schools and 159 hospitals in Oklahoma, parts of southern Kansas and far northern Texas faced the worst threat of tornadoes on Monday.

Monte Tucker, a farmer and rancher in the western Oklahoma town of Sweetwater, had some of his tractors and heavy equipment stored in sheds Monday to protect them from hail. He said he let his neighbors know they could come to his house if the weather turned dangerous.

“We built a house 10 years ago, and my stubborn wife put her foot down and made sure we built a safe room,” Tucker said. He said the entire ground floor room is built with reinforced concrete walls.

Oklahoma and Kansas were under a high-risk weather warning on Monday.

Bill Bunting, deputy director of the Storm Prediction Center, said such a warning from the center doesn’t happen every day or every spring.

“It’s the highest threat level we can assign,” he said.

The last time it was issued was on March 31, 2023, when a massive storm system tore through parts of the South and Midwest, including Arkansas, Illinois and rural Indiana.

The increased risk is due to an unusual coincidence: Wind gusts of up to about 75 miles per hour whipped through Colorado’s populated Front Range region, including the Denver area, on Monday.

The winds were caused by a low-pressure system north of Colorado that was also pulling moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico, raising the risk of severe weather on the Plains, the National Weather Service office in Denver said.

Colorado was not at risk for tornadoes or thunderstorms.

The whole week looks stormy in the US. The eastern U.S. and the South are expected to bear the brunt of the bad weather for the rest of the week, including Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati, cities with more than 21 million residents. It should be clear at the weekend.

In the meantime, flooding in the Houston area began retreating Monday after days of heavy rain in southeast Texas flooded neighborhoods and led to hundreds of high-water rescues.