May 15, 2009

Tornado takes heavy toll in Anadarko

Staff and wire reports

Staff and wire reports

Power was slowly being switched back on Thursday in Anadarko after a tornado raked the southwestern Oklahoma city, damaging dozens of homes and businesses and downing trees and power lines.

Local officials were surveying the damage in the town of 6,400, apparently the hardest-hit after severe thunderstorms passed through the state Wednesday night.

A press release issued Thursday afternoon by Anadarko's emergency operations center said there were three injuries, all minor, from the tornado, rated as an EF-1.

The National Weather Service said that twister was one of at least five that touched down in the state Wednesday. There were reports of wind damage in several counties, including Grady.

According to Paulette Nicholas, deputy director of Grady County Emergency Management, the only report of storm damage in Grady County was a roof partially torn off of a house a mile-and-a-half south of Hwy. 277 on Lake Burtschi Rd.

“If there is anyone else with storm damage, they need to let us know so we can notify the Red Cross and other agencies that their help is needed,” said Nicholas.

But In Anadarko, at least 40 homes and businesses were damaged and downed power lines led school officials there to cancel classes for the day because of the outages.

The city's downtown was in shambles, with pieces of roof and glass shards littering the streets, said Eddie Ladd, who's run an insurance business downtown for 21 years.

"I'm looking at my roof on the curb here we've been shoveling," said Ladd, who added that it was the first tornado he'd been through since being in business here.

"Hope it's the last one," he said.

Resident Barbara Constien had just taken shelter in the bathroom with her husband when the storm hit.

"All at once this terrific wind," she recalled Thursday. "A thunderous roar hit and we could hear stuff flying all around outside."

There's a hole in her roof, but she fared better than a neighbor on the corner whose house appeared to be a total loss.

"I've heard several legends about a tornado never hitting Anadarko because of the Washita River, that it would kind of split," she said. "That kind of dispelled that."

In northeastern Oklahoma, a 100 mph wind gust blew off parts of the roof at the Lighthouse Mission in Bartlesville, displacing 15 homeless people staying at the shelter.

"Everybody was safe," Naomi Hill, the founder of the mission, said Thursday. "Scared them a little, but everybody's safe."

In Anadarko, power was restored to key city buildings, such as the water and sewer treatment plants, state Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said.

"We are starting to bring power back on to some areas of the community," she said. "That's always good news when you start to see the power coming back on."

Anadarko Police Chief David Edwards encouraged those traveling through the area to exercise extreme caution.

The National Weather Service's Norman office said tornadoes rated at EF-0 touched down in Kay County and Dewey County, with neither causing damage. An EF-1 twister in Noble County took down trees and power lines.

"We do have damage in the Noble County area east of Red Rock," said Charles Conaghan, the emergency management director for the town of Tonkawa, in Kay County. "We had some trees uprooted."