Deadly Tornadoes Ravage Oklahoma, Leaving at Least Four Dead and Thousands Without Power

A severe storm system blasted across the Plains over the weekend, spawning multiple large and extremely dangerous tornadoes in Oklahoma. The devastating weather event claimed at least four lives, including an infant, destroyed homes, and left thousands without power. As the storm system continues to threaten parts of Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa, residents brace for the possibility of more deadly storms.

Governor Declares State of Emergency as Tornadoes Wreak Havoc

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency, freeing recovery funds after the destructive tornadoes. The hard-hit town of Sulphur saw extensive damage, with around 30 people injured and a sports bar taking a major hit. “Definitely the most damage since I’ve been governor,” Stitt said during a Sunday afternoon update.

The weather service confirmed 22 tornadoes in the Norman area, with tornadoes of at least EF-3 strength slamming into Sulphur and Marietta on Saturday night. An EF-3 rating indicates wind speeds of 136 mph or more. Two deaths occurred in Holdenville, including a 4-month-old baby and the third near Marietta on I-35.

Stitt issued an executive order Sunday declaring a state of emergency in 12 counties due to the fallout from the severe weather. Heavy rains that swept into Oklahoma with the tornadoes also caused dangerous flooding and water rescues. Outside Sulphur, rising lake levels shut down the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, where the storms wiped out a pedestrian bridge.

Sulphur Devastated by Powerful Tornado

The destruction was particularly severe in Sulphur, where a tornado crumpled many downtown buildings, tossed cars and buses, and sheared the roofs off houses across a 15-block radius. Hospitals across the state reported about 100 injuries, including people apparently cut or struck by debris.

Carolyn Goodman traveled to Sulphur from the nearby town of Ada in search of her former sister-in-law, who Goodman said was at a local bar just before the tornado hit the area. Stitt said one of the victims was found inside a bar, but authorities had not yet identified those killed.

At the Sulphur High School gym, where families took cover from the storm, Jackalyn Wright said she and her family heard what sounded like a helicopter as the tornado touched down over them. Chad Smith, 43, said people ran into the gym as the wind picked up, the rain started coming faster, and the doors slammed shut.

White House Offers Support as Storm System Threatens Multiple States

White House officials said President Joe Biden spoke to Stitt on Sunday and offered the full support of the federal government. The deadly weather in Oklahoma added to the dozens of reported tornadoes that have wreaked havoc in the nation’s midsection since Friday, with another death reported in Iowa.

The storm system continued to threaten parts of Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa through Sunday night, AccuWeather warned. Residents in these states were urged to stay weather aware and prepared for the possibility of more severe storms.

Almost 45,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Texas and Oklahoma by 6:30 p.m. CDT Sunday. The extent of the damage was unclear early Sunday, but there were reports of injuries, property damage, flooding, and downed power lines and trees across several counties Saturday night, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Cleanup Efforts Begin as Communities Assess the Damage

Residents in other states, such as Nebraska and Iowa, were also digging out from storm damage. A tornado in suburban Omaha demolished homes and businesses Saturday as it moved for miles through farmland and into subdivisions, then slammed an Iowa town.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds spent Saturday touring the damage and arranging for assistance for the damaged communities. Formal damage assessments are still underway, but the states plan to seek federal help.

The tornado damage in Nebraska began Friday afternoon near Lincoln. An industrial building in Lancaster County was hit, causing it to collapse with 70 people inside. Several were trapped, but everyone was evacuated, and the three injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.