MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

December 31, 2013

Devastating tornadoes named state’s top story

Even in a state accustomed to Mother’s Nature fury, 2013 was extraordinary.

In a two-week period in May, violent tornadoes and powerful flash flooding walloped the state, killing schoolchildren, storm chasers and Oklahomans who had huddled in convenience store coolers and underground storm drains to avoid the storms.

The one-two punch of tornadoes that struck Moore and El Reno in May — and the outpouring of support nationally and internationally — was overwhelmingly picked by Associated Press members as the story of 2013.

The full list, prepared by Oklahoma reporters who covered the state’s top stories in 2013, follows:

1. Tornadoes

One of the most powerful tornadoes to hit Oklahoma formed just southwest of Moore on May 20 and roared into the Oklahoma City suburb, killing 24 and leaving at least $2 billion in damages.

Seven pupils died when the EF-5 twister hit the Plaza Towers Elementary School. The storm hit another school, but no deaths were recorded there.

Less than two weeks later after the storm at Moore, a twister with the second-highest winds ever recorded near ground level hit south of El Reno, part of a thunderstorm complex that produced flash flooding and high winds that killed two dozen people in the Oklahoma City area. Three scientists who studied tornadoes were among those killed.

— Staff of the Norman Transcript and The Associated Press

2. Australian player-

random slaying

A 22-year-old Australian who came to Oklahoma to play college baseball was gunned down while jogging in Duncan, creating an uproar on two continents.

Christopher Lane, 22, was shot in the back Aug. 16 while running down a tree-lined street in the southern Oklahoma town. Lane, a Melbourne native, was a catcher at East Central University in Ada and preparing to enter his senior year. Lane was visiting his girlfriend’s parents’ in Duncan when he was shot and killed.

Three teenagers were arrested. Two of them were charged as adults with first-degree murder. A third teenager was initially charged as a youthful offender but later charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege the shooting was a random act by teenagers who said they were “bored.”

—Kristi Eaton,

The Associated Press

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