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Entries in Oklahoma (45)

Monday
Jun032013

Veteran Storm Chaser Killed in Oklahoma Tornado

Facebook(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- The tornado outbreak that swept through Oklahoma on Friday night moved in quickly, for the second time in two weeks, and the cluster of twisters were deadly. In the storm's aftermath, 13 people have been confirmed dead. Among them were three veteran storm chasers.

Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and their colleague, Carl Young, were all killed while trying to document and research the storm.

Tim was found inside his car with his seat belt still on. Paul and Young were pulled from a car by a tornado. One of them was found dead a half mile away.

Tim Samaras, who led the storm chasing team, was an esteemed scientist. In the storm chasing community, he was known, not only as one of the best, but one of the most cautious. He chased because he wanted to learn, find out how to improve warning systems and help meteorologists do a better job of forecasting tornadoes.

Much of Samaras' recent research was funded through National Geographic, which issued a statement today that said, "We are shocked and deeply saddened... [Samaras] was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning ... in an effort to better understand these phenomena."

But Samaras also was well aware of the real dangers of storm chasing.

"At times I have mixed feelings about chasing the storms," he said. "On one hand they are incredibly beautiful, on the other hand these powerful storms can create devastating damage that change people lives forever."

At the end of a chase last year, Samaras told ABC News's Ginger Zee that it was his desire to know more, to inform us all, that fueled him to keep going out into the storm again and again.

"I don't know how many storms I've seen in my lifetime, but every single one of them, I still get pretty excited," he said. "The little boy in me just wants to come out here and just watch and stare."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun022013

Oklahoma Starts Recovery in Aftermath of Tornadoes

ABC News(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- Officials are stepping up cleanup efforts on Sunday in Oklahoma after a number of communities were hit by deadly tornadoes in the last two weeks as the death toll from Friday's storms increased to 11.

Among the fatalities from the deadly twisters was well-known meteorologist and storm chaser Tim Samaras, according to family members.

Samaras, who founded TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment) and appeared on the show Storm Chasers, dedicated three decades of his life to studying tornadoes.

"Out of all storm chasers he doesn't take chances, he's the one that puts the probes in the path of the tornado to learn more about them. He is not, you know, a young gun running around making bad decisions person so I am so sad and shocked, it is such a loss for the community," ABC News weather anchor Ginger Zee said of Samaras.

Samaras' son Paul and along with storm chase partner Carl Young were also killed in Friday's storms.

Heavy rains flooded the same roads packed with debris after a number of twisters criss-crossed traffic-packed highways outside of Oklahoma City during rush hour Friday night.

That same storm system heads east, bringing hail, damaging winds, and flooding.

To aid recovery efforts, Oklahoma Gas and Electric has worked hard to get customers in the Oklahoma City back up and running. Friday night's tornadoes left tens of thousands without power. With approximately 48,000 in the dark in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area alone, questions loom as to how soon residents will have their lights back on.

"The flooding though that we've had has really hindered our access to get in and determine what kind of damage we have," Kathleen O'Shea of OG&E told ABC News.

But Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said that the storms could have been a lot worse for the Sooner State's capital.

"It could have been really, really bad," he told ABC News Saturday. "The fact that it did not come down out of the sky and in retrospect, did not have the high winds as the May 20 storm, we're probably pretty fortunate."

Yet Cornett said he plans to review why the majority of the lives lost in the storm were people on the road trying to outrun the twisters.

"We don't need people in their cars during a high risk storm like that," he said. "[People] have tornado precautions in their mind, they just need to use them. They don't need to start getting in their cars and taking off."

"The worst place you can be in a tornado is in your car. You get in your car, almost anything can happen," said Cornett.

As Oklahoma continues to rebuild in from tornadoes' destruction in the Oklahoma City area and from the storms in Moore, officials acknowledge relief efforts will be trying both physically and emotionally for residents.

"We're still holding funerals for families that lost loved ones, families that lost kids in grade schools [in Moore]," said Cornett. "The emotional impact of May 20 remains with us. The physical aspect will take us time."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun012013

Body of Girl, 4, Recovered After Being 'Swept Away' by Storm

ABC News(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- The body of a 4-year-old girl was recovered after she was swept away by the rising floodwaters in the wake of tornadoes that ravaged the Oklahoma City area, but what happened to the rest of her family is unknown, police said today.

The young girl and her family took shelter from the barrage of tornadoes that touched down Friday night in a ditch three miles south of downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Police Department spokesman Lt. Jay Barnett told ABC News.

"They were seeking shelter from the storm and got caught up in it somehow," Barnett said. "She was trapped by the fast-rising waters associated with the storm and got swept away."

Barnett said it is believed she hid out with family members who may have included a 21-year-old adult male, as well as her 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 5-month-old relatives.

Barnett could not confirm whether the girl was included in the nine deaths listed by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office.

The whereabouts of the child's family are still unclear, Barnett said.

"Until we actually recover additional bodies and are able to speak with available witnesses, we can't say for certain what happened," Barnett said. "We can also hold out some hope that not all of them were swept away, that not all perished."

Barnett could not comment on where the girl's body was found, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation.

A mother and her baby were also killed after they were sucked out of their car during the tornadoes.

The storm, which included an estimated five twisters, left others huddled and crying in walk-in freezers, smashed and flipped cars and trucks, and turned roads into rivers.

The woman and her infant were in a vehicle on Interstate 40 when the storm struck during rush hour. They were just miles from the city of Moore, Okla., which was devastated by a massive tornado that killed 24 people on May 20, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

"A mother and baby lost their lives out here tonight," Randolph said. "They were swept up in the storm... (They were) traveling on the interstate and their car was sucked up into the tornado and they were sucked out of their vehicle and thrown from their vehicle.

"We know that the storm picked them up and swept them away. When the troopers found them, they were both deceased," the officer added.

They were not immediately identified.

Randolph described a nightmarish situation on the interstate.

"The sky was black, there was debris flying through the air," she told ABC News. She said there was heavy rain and hail the size of "softballs" that was hitting people as they escaped from cars that were colliding and being sent airborne by the storm.

"It was absolute chaos with all the crashes and vehicles flying through the air," she said.

Randolph compared the damage along Highway 40 to a parking lot strewn with wrecked cars and said there were not enough troopers to respond to each accident.

Hail, flood waters and downed power lines made it difficult for police and emergency crews to access the area, Randolph said.

"I cannot stress to you just how important it is that if people don't have to be out, that they stay inside and seek shelter," she said.

Beverly Allam, 57, was trying to leave her home and head south to outrun the storm, but got trapped in what she called "a mass exodus" as other motorists also tried to flee.

She was at Highway 9, 10 miles from I-40, but the winds were strong enough to push her van into a different lane and make her fear that the van would tip over. She was with her daughter Helema, 16, and son Mohamed, 33. They fled for shelter into a Sinclair gas station and took shelter with 50 other strangers in the station freezer.

In the freezer there were a few people freaking out crying with their pets, she said. There were some comforting others, and a few just trying to keep things light with jokes.

This storm particularly scared her and she has lived in Oklahoma her whole life. She describes the sky as pitch black and said she was able to see power surges and flashes in the sky.

"You just try to make a run for it and get away," Allam said.

She was particularly scared because she has never been without a shelter in storm situations, "the only way to survive theses storms," she said.

When they emerged from the freezer, Allam saw that her car windshield had been shattered by the hail and the lot was littered with glass and huge balls of hail. On her way home after the worst had passed "the roads were like rivers," Allam said.

Addie Pendarvis was working at a Sonic, a drive-in diner, when the tornado emergency went into effect.

"When my bosses called me, I had to get everyone and put them in the walk-ins until I got the call to get everybody out that it had passed us," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun012013

Officials to Assess Damage After Tornadoes Hit Oklahoma Again

NOAA National Weather Service(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- Oklahoma officials this morning will be surveying the damage left by several twisters and violent weather that swept through the area Friday night -- leaving at least nine people dead, flipping trucks on interstate highways during rush hour and miring cars in deep floods.

"We haven't had a chance yet for our team to take a look at the damage out there because the flood waters are still keeping us out of the area," Keli Cain, the public information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management told ABC News.

The National Weather Service initially estimated that five tornadoes touched down in the Oklahoma City area Friday.

Friday's severe weather was blamed for at least nine deaths, including two children and seven adults, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office confirmed Saturday morning.

Among them were a mother and her baby possibly sucked out of their cars near Interstate 40, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph told ABC News.

"We know that the storm picked them up and swept them away," Randolph said. "When the troopers found them, they were both deceased.

"We know that a mother and a child were killed tonight on I-40 in Canadian County," Randolph said. "I cannot stress to you just how important it is that if people don't have to be out, that they stay inside and seek shelter. ... There's just no safe place to be except underground when a tornado is present."

The latest storms hit 11 days after a massive E-5 tornado jolted Moore, Okla., on May 20, killing 24 people, smashing hospitals and schools, and flattening neighborhoods.

Randolph said the area roads were extremely congested, particularly I-40 and I-35.

"Several spots are impassable whether it's high water or power lines that are down," she said. "We've had multiple crashes, some of which are probably going to be there for a while as we're unable to get wreckers to clear the roadway."

She added that troopers were being told to push vehicles off I-40 to clear the roadway.

Local hospitals reported receiving at least 89 patients, four critical, with three fatalities among them.

Integris Health Southwest, which has three hospitals in the area, reported most of the patients, including two dead -- the mother and baby from I-40. One of its hospitals also had a baby in critical condition.

Mercy Hospital in El Reno, Okla., reported receiving 13 patients, one dead on arrival and two in critical condition.

Oklahoma University Medical Center, the only level one trauma center in the state, reported two adult patients whose conditions were unclear. OU also runs The Children's Hospital, where there were six pediatric patients, two transferred from Integris.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado emergency earlier for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, including Moore, which is south of the Oklahoma City, amid the massive storm.

Gov. Mary Fallin told ABC News on Friday evening that there were power outages, flooding and flipped trucks on interstates amid apparent tornados.

"We're real concerned about the people that are on the highways," Fallin said, noting the worst of the storm hit during the evening rush hour.

"It hit during a time when people were getting off work," Fallin said. "They knew the storms where coming in, so people were going home."

"We're seeing, right now, a lot of flooding," Cain said Friday. "That is a big issue. We're seeing a lot of power issues. ... It's still difficult to assess what damage is out there. We may not have information about that until [Saturday]."

ABC News affiliate KOCO reported that an apparent tornado had touched down near El Reno, Okla., and moved east toward Oklahoma City.

"It's really bad and lightning and all the roads are flooded," said Addie Pendarvis, who works at a Sonic drive-in diner in El Reno. "It was hailing really bad earlier, too."

Moore City Manager Steve Eddy, drove around Moore after the latest storm, and told ABC News Friday evening that he saw minor flooding and power outages, but no immediate evidence of tornado activity.

There are about 125,000 power outages reported statewide with 95,618 in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area alone.

Oklahoma City Police Emergency Management said late Friday it was helping motorists stranded by widespread flooding.

Flash flooding remains the biggest weather threat Saturday as the National Weather Service issued flash flooding warnings for central and eastern Oklahoma.

Early morning flights at Will Rogers airport in Oklahoma City have delayed but officials expect to resume service later Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May302013

Severe Weather, Tornado Warnings in Oklahoma

ABC News(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) -- Officials in Oklahoma are preparing for another round of severe weather while tornado watches and warnings have gone up throughout the Midwest.

The National Weather Service has issued tornado warnings for the Oklahoma City area, and authorities have advised residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma that dangerous tornadoes could hit today. The region is still recovering from the ongoing stretch of severe weather, including the disastrous and deadly tornado that hit Moore, Okla., just last week.

The Weather Service says that the threat of tornadoes in Oklahoma and parts of Missouri and Arkansas remain moderate through Thursday night. Parts of the upper Midwest, including Illinois and Wisconsin were under tornado watches Thursday afternoon and may experience severe thunderstorms throughout Thursday night.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar302013

Oklahoma Dentist's Patients to Receive Free Testing After Health Scare

ABC/KOCO,Oklahoma Board of Dentistry(NEW YORK) -- The Oklahoma state dental board is offering free testing to patients of an Oklahoma dentist accused of "being a menace to the public health," after a 17-count complaint revealed his poor sterilization practices put them at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

More than 7,000 patients of Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington, an oral surgeon who practices in Tulsa and Owasso, received a letter from the Tulsa Health Department on Friday, informing them of an inquiry into Harrington's practice and advising them to get screened.

The dentist's alleged practices came to light after a patient who had no known risk factors -- other than receiving dental treatment in Harrington's office -- tested positive for hepatitis C.

"I could not believe it, because I had just been there February 28," Linda Grimm, a patient of Dr. Harrington's, told ABC News' Tulsa affiliate KTUL. "My worry now is my health issues that may develop."

After hearing about the infected patient on March 15, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise investigation of the dentist's practice on March 18, allegedly finding numerous sterilization and cross-contamination issues.

Investigators found two different sets of instruments – one set for patients known to have infectious diseases, and another set for patients who were not believed to have infectious diseases.

Investigators also found that the autoclave, the machine designed to sterilize dental instruments, which is meant to be tested each month, hadn't been checked in 6 years.

"We were just physically kind of sick," said Susan Rodgers, president of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. "The instruments that came out of the autoclave were horrible. I wouldn't let my nephews play with them out in the dirt." '

Harrington, who has been practicing for more than 30 years, may face criminal charges. The dentist voluntarily surrendered his state dental license and other permits. A formal hearing before the dentistry board is scheduled for April 19.

ABC News' Phoenix affiliate KNXV went to a home believed to be owned by Harrington in Carefree, Ariz. on Friday. A man believed to be Harrington declined to comment, and slammed the door.

Harrington and his staff told investigators that he treated a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients," according to a 17-count complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.

Drug cabinets were unlocked and unsupervised during the day, and Harrington did not keep an inventory log of the drugs, some of which were controlled substances, according to the complaint. One drug vial expired in 1993.

"During the inspections, Dr. Harrington referred to his staff regarding all sterilization and drug procedures in his office," the complaint read. "He advised, 'They take care of that. I don't.'"

Harrington allegedly re-used needles, contaminating drugs with potentially harmful bacteria and trace amounts of other drugs, according to the complaint. Although patient-specific drug records indicated that they were using morphine in 2012, no morphine had been ordered since 2009.

Rodgers called the incident a "perfect storm."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec102012

Boy Turns Birthday Party into Toys for Tots Drive

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OWASSO, Okla.) -- An Oklahoma boy’s generosity on his birthday has helped a local Toys for Tots drive to gather nearly 500 gifts for needy kids after he told his mother that he wanted to forgo presents for his December birthday, and ask for donations instead.

Chase Rowe of Owasso, Okla. has been a participating with his family in the Toys for Tots drive at the nearby Rejoice Church for the past few years, going with his mom to purchase toys and helping distribute them to the needy. His mom, Tiffany Rowe, told ABC News that when she had a conversation with him this year about what he wanted to do for his eighth birthday on Dec. 17, Chase told her that what he really wanted to do was to give toys to other kids.

“We were discussing with him what we can do for a birthday, when we’re limited on time. We asked him, ‘What do you really want?’ He said he wanted his friends to bring unopened toys to bring to his party to donate,” she said.

Soon a local business, Red Dot Laser Tag, got wind of Chase’s generosity, and decided to donate a mobile laser tag unit for the kids to use at the party. Another local business, Game On Party Truck, followed suit, and on Sunday, Chase’s party was a rousing success.

“We had over 100 kids, and that didn’t include the parents. We had at least 200 people circulated throughout the day,” Tiffany Rowe said.

In total, she said, they collected nearly 500 toys to be donated at the party, where the kids enjoyed popcorn and snow cones — Chase’s only request — and, of course, some cookies.

Rowe said that they welcomed anyone who wanted to come to the event.  They circulated flyers to Chase’s classmates, his karate teammates, and through the public schools. She added that Chase is already planning next year’s drive.

“If you ask him what he really wants, he wants kids to get toys for Christmas,” she said. “He’s adamant about that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

Oklahoma Judge Sentences Teen to Church for 10 Years

Comstock/Thinkstock(MUSKOGEE, Okla.) -- Anybody who knows Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman probably yawned at the news that he’d sentenced a teen offender to attend church as part of his probation arrangement, and that the judge’s pastor was in the courtroom at the time.

Not only had he handed down such a sentence before, but he’d required one man to bring the church program back with him when he reported to court.

“The Lord works in many ways,” Norman, 69, told ABC News Friday. “I’ve done a little bit of this kind of thing before, but never on such a serious charge.”

Norman sentenced Tyler Alred, 17, Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in August for killing friend and passenger John Luke Dum in a car crash.

Dum died on impact in December after Alred crashed his Chevrolet pickup truck, ejecting Dum. Alred was 16 at the time of the crash and had been drinking prior to the deadly accident.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol issued a Breathalyzer at the time, and although Alred was under the state’s legal alcohol limit, he had been drinking underage.

The judge could have sent Alred to jail but, instead, taking into account his clean criminal and school records, sentenced him to wear a drug and alcohol bracelet, participate in counseling groups and attend a church of his choosing – weekly. He must also graduate from high school.

To avoid jail time, Norman gave Alred a maximum 10-year deferred sentence.

He’d never passed down the church-attendance requirement for someone as young as Alred,  said Norman, who has worked as a district Judge in Muskogee for 14 years.

“It’s not going to be automatic, I guarantee you,”  Norman said of the church sentence on future manslaughter charges. “There are a lot of people who say I can’t do what I did. They’re telling me I can’t legally sentence someone to church.”

Alred’s lawyer is not among the critics. “I usually represent outlaws and criminals,” defense attorney Donn Baker told the Muskogee Phoenix. “This is a kid that made a mistake. I think he’s worth saving.”

In the courtroom this week, an emotional scene between the victim’s family and Alred played out after statements from Dum’s mother, father and two sisters were read during the sentencing. Dum’s father and Alred stood up in court, turned toward each other and embraced one another.

“At that moment, it sure became a reality to me that I would sentence this boy to church” to help set him on the right path, Norman, a member of First Baptist Church in Muskogee, said. “There’s nothing I can do to make this up to the family."

“I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia. They soon forget once they get out of jail.”

After completing the rest of the requirements in his sentence, Alred will have the charge removed from his record.

“Only time will tell if we’ve saved Tyler Alred’s life,” the judge said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug202012

Oklahoma Valedictorian Denied Diploma After Using 'Hell' in Her Speech

Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(PRAGUE, Okla.) -- The father of a recent high school graduate in Oklahoma who has been denied a diploma because she said "hell" in her valedictorian speech has accused her principal of bullying his daughter.

"She became a senior and he constantly picked on her," Kaitlin Nootbaar's father, David, said of Prague High School principal David Smith. "I thought bullying wasn't supposed to be allowed in school."

Neither Smith nor superintendent Rick Martin responded to messages asking them to comment.

In her speech, Kaitlin, 18, told her Prague, Okla., audience about how she has changed her mind numerous times about potential career choices, her father said.

He said Kaitlin spoke of how she once wanted to be a nurse when she was younger, but then wanted to become a vet. She summarized her dilemma, her father said, with, "How the hell do I know? I've changed my mind so many times."

The teen told her parents she drew inspiration for her speech from the movies Eclipse, which is the third installment of The Twilight Saga film series, and The Hunger Games.

Eclipse includes a graduation scene in which the speaker says, "Who the hell knows."

Kaitlin's speech was met with laughter and applause, her father said. The class valedictorian walked the stage and graduated along with the rest of her class.

Her transcripts were sent on to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford and life went on as usual until she and her father went to collect her diploma from the high school office last week.

"The principle shut the door on us," David Nootbaar said, "and told us she [Kaitlin] will type apology letters to him, the school board, the superintendent and all of the teachers," in order for her to obtain her diploma.

Kaitlin has told her parents she does not intend to write the apology letters but, her father said, still believes she is entitled to the diploma.

The straight-A student who has "never received a B in her life," her father said, is now enjoying her first days at college at Southwestern Oklahoma State.

She has decided to major in biology, her dad said, to become a marine biologist -- for now.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug052012

Oklahomans Return to Find Little Left After Wildfires

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LUTHER, Okla.) -- Nearly 100 buildings, including five-dozen homes, have been destroyed in the past two days in Oklahoma, where severe weather contributed to the rapid spread of a number of wildfires. Hundreds of people were quickly evacuated from their homes as the blazes approached.

Residents returning to their neighborhoods Saturday found little left, after hot, dry weather and strong winds turned brush fires into firestorms. Investigators believe the fire in Luther, Okla., was started deliberately.

Oklahoma Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Mary Myers said there were “no arrests, no suspects” but deputies were “working around the clock” to find anyone responsible.

The fires are now largely under control, and residents who were forced out of their homes are returning to their neighborhoods, and finding little there.

The fire in Luther burned about 4 square miles, leaving families to sift through the ashes.

“We just barely got pictures out, we got a few clothes,” Tracy Streeper told ABC News. “We had maybe 30 minutes. Memories, home, everything’s gone.”

Next door, Casey Strahan took stock of what was left of his home.

“In a tornado, you can pick stuff up, and you dig through and you find things that are salvageable,” Strahan told ABC. “You come here, and you move anything, and it turns to dust.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin early this morning visited with families affected by the Luther fire.

“It’s heartbreaking to see families that have lost so much,” Fallin said after talking with some who lost their homes. “I gave them a hug, told them I was sorry.”

Her emergency managers have told her this year could bring one of the worst wildfire breakouts in the state’s history.

“This has been a very, very tough situation, when it’s over 110 degrees, and you’ve got huge flames and massive fires,” Gov. Fallin said.

Oklahomans say they will rebuild, but the weather shows no signs of cooling down, and the probability of more fires remains high. The weather is similar to last year’s, when state agencies ended up fighting 1,800 fires throughout the state.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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