MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

June 1, 2013

Five die when tornado hits Oklahoma City area, 50 hurt

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tornadoes rolled in from the prairie and slammed Oklahoma City and its suburbs, trapping people in their vehicles as a storm swept down an interstate highway while commuters tried to beat it home.

Five people were killed, including a mother and baby killed near Union City. Another person died at El Reno, the first city struck by the storm, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner. Circumstances involving the other two deaths weren't immediately known, Elliott said.

About 50 people were hurt, five critically, hospital officials said.

Meteorologists had warned about particularly nasty weather Friday but said the storm's fury didn't match that of a deadly twister that struck suburban Moore last week. Violent weather also moved through the St. Louis area, ripping part of the roof off a suburban casino.

Friday's broad storm in Oklahoma hit during the evening rush hour and stuck around, causing havoc on Interstate 40, a major artery connecting suburbs east and west of the city, and dropping so much rain on the area that streets were flooded to a depth of 4 feet.

To the south, a severe storm with winds approaching 80 mph rolled into Moore, where a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado killed 24 on May 20.

Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Norman, said that while the storm packed a powerful punch, it wasn't as strong as the Moore tornado.

"This storm had everything you could handle at one time: tornadoes, hail, lightning, heavy rain, people clogging the highways," Smith said.

The region was fortunate because the storm touched down mostly in rural areas and missed central Oklahoma City.

"It's not even close to anything like what we had last week," Smith said. "We were very concerned this would move into downtown. It would have been a major problem. It made all the difference that it was out in the country."

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