Entries in Tornado (47)


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


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


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


Tornado-Damaged Oklahoma Town Holds High School Graduation Ceremonies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOORE, Okla.) -- Graduation ceremonies were held Saturday for students from three high schools in an Oklahoma community ravaged by a monstrous tornado, marking a bittersweet end to a week that brought fatalities and unfathomable destruction.

Three highs schools in the Moore Public Schools system -- Westmoore, Southmoore and Moore high schools -- held back-to-back ceremonies Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Students who lost their caps, gowns and tassels in the tornado were given replacements free of charge so they could still participate in the rite of passage and walk in their ceremony.

Seven tornadoes had hit the area during the lifespan of the class of 2013, but many of the graduates said they planned to stay in the area as they moved on to the next chapters of their lives.

The graduation ceremonies came in the midst of the first of the private funerals being held for the 24 people, including seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School, who were killed in Monday's tornado.

"What was started off as a normal day at Plaza Towers turned into horrible, horrible thing for seven families," principal Amy Simpson said on Friday, as she recalled the massive twister that decimated the school.

"So many of us survived that day, because the teachers were able to act quickly, stay calm and take literally the weight of a wall," she said.

For Becky Flood, who lives one block from the school, the young lives lost were the most heartwrenching effect of the tornado.

"The hard part is having friends that've lost their kids," she said. "I know what it is to lose a child. I lost a daughter three years ago."

Emergency calls from the harrowing moments during the twister were released on Friday, capturing the terror felt by residents as they sought shelter.

"A tornado just hit us we're trapped in a closet ... we can't get out," a caller said.

"Are you injured?" the dispatcher asked.

"No, we just can't breathe," the caller replied.

Amid the loss and destruction, one woman received a glimmer of hope just in time for Memorial Day Weekend, when a group of volunteers found and returned her father's American flag, which had been saved from his time serving in the Korean War.

On Sunday, President Obama is scheduled to visit the devastated community to meet with victims and first responders. A public memorial service is also scheduled for Sunday evening at the First Baptist Church in Moore, Okla.

Gov. Mary Fallin's office said 4,500 seats were available to the public on a first come, first served basis at the church, but the response is expected to be so overwhelming that overflow seating is being made available at Westmoore High School.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


WATCH: Louisiana Man, Truck Go Airborne During Tornado

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jerry Millet got the unexpected ride of his life while he was driving down a Louisiana highway and his truck was picked up by the swirling winds of a tornado.

Surveillance video from a nearby gas station captured the horror on tape Monday afternoon as Millet was making deliveries in his Ford pickup truck in Gonzales, La.

“I didn’t know where I was or how high in the air I was, but I kept pushing on the brakes in that truck, like that was going to do something for me,” Millet told WAFB-TV.

The video shows Millet’s truck being lifted into the air like a toy.  His truck twirled several times while airborne.  Witnesses say the truck was as high as the telephone pole he flew past.

“The truck just started bouncing,” Millet said.  “I thought I was dead.”

Millet’s truck remained in the air for mere seconds before it literally fell from the sky and crashed 20 feet away onto a truck parked nearby.

A Good Samaritan driving in the opposite direction saw Millet’s truck take flight and immediately stopped her vehicle to help him.

“I hear my daughter’s voice, my baby girl,” Millet said.  “I look up, here she come a walking.”

Millet’s daughter, Lacey, just happened to be in the right place at the right time to assist her father.

“He was like, ‘How did you get here?  How did you know?’  And I said, ‘I seen the whole thing happened,’” Lacey Millet said.

The only causality was Jerry Millet’s delivery truck.  He suffered minor injuries and was released from the hospital on the same day.

He is now healing at home, thankful to be alive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stephanie Decker, Hero Mom, Visits White House

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In March Stephanie Decker lost both her legs saving her children from an Indiana tornado. On Friday, she walked into the Oval Office with the help of President Obama.

The president welcomed Decker, her husband Joe and their children, Reese and Dominic, to the White House less than four months after the twister destroyed their home in Henryville, Ind.

Decker saved her young children from the tornado by shielding them with her own body, but lost her legs in the process when they were crushed under debris.

A White House photo shows Decker, who now uses prosthetic legs, walking arm-in-arm with the president in the Oval Office.

Decker and the president discussed a foundation she started to help children with artificial limbs play sports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama Hails Resilience of Joplin, Graduates Year After Tornado

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- President Obama returned to Joplin, Mo., Monday night, one year after a monster tornado leveled the town on high school graduation day, to celebrate its remarkable recovery and the first class of graduates since the storm.

“As I look out at this class, and across this city, what’s clear is that you’re the source of inspiration today -- to me, to this state, to this country, and to people all over the world,” Obama said at Joplin High School’s 2012 commencement ceremony, where he was the keynote speaker.

“By now, most of you have probably relived those 32 minutes again and again,” he said of the twister, a mile-wide EF-5 that tore across the region with winds over 200 miles per hour. “Where you were.  What you saw.  When you knew for sure that it was over.

“And yet, the story of Joplin isn’t just the story of what happened the next day,” Obama said.  “It’s the story of what happened the next day, and the day after that.  And all the days and weeks and months that followed.”

The president, who visited Joplin in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 storm, hailed the resilience of the community in the wake of devastating loss -- 161 killed, more than 8,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and more than $2.8 billion in damage.

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Over the past 12 months, Joplin has undertaken a massive clean-up and rebuilding effort that has slowly and steadily produced signs of healing, but challenges and scars remain.

The graduating class of high school students completed their studies in temporary classrooms set up at a local mall. The town’s hospital, St. John’s Regional Medical Center, and hundreds of family homes have yet to be rebuilt.

Meteorologists say the storm was one of the deadliest and most expensive in U.S. history.

But Obama made clear it was not the historic nature of the storm but a recovery effort marked by “kindness and generosity and quiet service” that would be the defining characteristic of the tragedy.

“You’ll remember that in a town of 50,000 people, nearly 50,000 more came to help in to help the weeks after the tornado -- perfect strangers who’ve never met you, and didn’t ask for anything in return,” Obama said.

“One man traveled all the way from Japan, because he remembered that Americans were there for his country after last year’s tsunami, and he wanted the chance he said to pay it forward,” he said.

The president acknowledged the thousands of Americans who came to the aid of Joplin, including AmeriCorps volunteers, a state college football team, even Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who made a $500,000 donation to rebuilding effort.

He also gave a nod to the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally in the Middle East, which provided new laptops for the city’s school and a $5 million donation to help rebuild a hospital.

“There are so many good people in the world.  There is such a decency, a bigness of spirit, in this country of ours,” Obama said. “So, Class of 2012, you’ve got to remember that.  Remember what people did here.  And like the man from Japan who came to Joplin, make sure in your own life that you pay it forward.”

President Obama also said the Joplin story has a message about the “power of community” to bridge divisions among people and achieve common goals.

“My deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you will bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel, to everything you do,” Obama told the graduates.

“You can serve as a reminder that we’re not meant to walk this road alone; that we’re not expected to face down adversity by ourselves.  We need God, we need each other,” he said, hinting at a message that has been a tagline of his re-election campaign.

“We’re important to each other,” he added. “And we’re stronger together than we are on our own.”

Obama exhorted the Class of 2012 to apply the same spirit underpinning a drive to rebuild Joplin to “help rebuild America.”

“America will only succeed if we all pitch in and pull together,” he said. “And I’m counting on you to be leaders in that effort. Because you are from Joplin, and you’ve already defied the odds.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tornado Hits San Antonio as Severe Weather Rattles South and Midwest

Comstock/Thinkstock (SAN ANTONIO, Texas) -- Severe weather hammered the Midwest and South including a tornado that touched down in San Antonio, where at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Residents from Minnesota to Texas are bracing for flooding Tuesday after severe weather brought heavy rain and hail that is anticipated to continue for the next few days. With the storm system slowing significantly, tornadoes are becoming less likely, but flash flooding becomes a major concern, forecasters said.

The slow-moving weather pattern will bring thunderstorms with heavy rain as it moves over the same area, according to the National Weather Service, which said that some locations will receive a foot of rain by midweek.

The NWS reported that the tornado touched down 25 miles southwest of San Antonio on Monday evening, and that parts of the city and surrounding areas were under a tornado warning. Although some were trapped inside their homes, no fatalities were reported by early Tuesday morning.

Tornado warnings across the San Antonio area were canceled around 11 p.m. Monday, according to ABC News affiliate KSAT. Crews began assessing damage to the area late Monday night.

The sheriff's office in Medina, Texas, reported multiple injuries, but does not have a count yet.

"Pretty much all" of the approximately 50 homes damaged were completely destroyed, a representative from the office said.

Interim Fire Marshal Craig Roberts reported heavily damaged homes and five injuries, with one person reported missing, according to KSAT. He said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Strong winds in the Dallas-Fort Worth area brought major power outages, while outages were reported in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa County. Heavy rains closed roads in Oklahoma, and roofs were reportedly blown off by high winds in Minnesota.

Monday's severe weather follows an EF3 twister with winds up to 165 mph that struck North Platte, Neb., on Sunday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Caught on Tape: Tornado Rips Indiana School

Scott Olsen/Getty Images (HENRYVILLE, Ind.) -- High school security cameras in Henryville, Ind., captured rare footage of the effects of a tornado that ripped the unoccupied school apart.

On March 2, a deadly string of tornadoes turned tight-knit rural communities into apocalyptic war zones. Buildings were reduced to rubble, businesses were destroyed and families were left homeless by the disaster.

In Henryville, the town’s elementary, middle and high schools were wiped out. Receipts from the town were found 150 miles away in Cincinnati, carried by the brutal force of the storm.


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The death toll was 39 across the South and Midwest in that bout of wild weather.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mom Loses Legs Saving Kids From Indiana Twister

Decker Family/Handout(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Faced with having her house blown away by a tornado that struck her town last week, Indiana resident Stephanie Decker's motherly instincts kicked in as she used her body to shield her two young kids from the storm.  But her heroic efforts came at a price: she lost both her legs in the process.

"I knew my leg was barely attached or it was severed.  I didn't know which but I knew it was bad.  If I didn't get help soon, I was going to bleed out," Decker told ABC News, which interviewed her Monday night from her hospital bed in Louisville, Ky.

Decker, 37, and her family were smack dab in the middle of a tornado outbreak Friday that included 140 reported twisters, 76 confirmed landings and 39 deaths.

"It was nothing I expected," she said.  "I never, ever thought in a million years my house would be blown away."

Decker was determined to keep her kids safe, and her actions saved them, but at a steep cost.  Not only was her home lost, but both of her legs had to be amputated late Friday -- one just below the knee, the other just above it.

"I assumed I was safe and I heard the roar like a train, and I heard it behind me, and I knew it was coming," she recalled on Monday.  "And it was so loud that I knew that I needed to do something different.  I knew staying put wasn't going to work."

So Decker acted.  She dashed down into her home's basement with son Dominic, 8, and daughter Reese, 5.  As the house began to disintegrate she tried to shield them with a comforter.

"I remember the whole thing," Decker said.  "I stayed conscious the whole time.  I couldn't afford [to pass out].  They needed me.  They had to have me, so I had to figure out what to do.  And my son is a hero.  He went to get help."

Both Decker's legs were smashed.  She also suffered a punctured lung.  Her children, however, were unscathed.

Next, it was her son's turn for heroism.  He knew his mother was hurt and he crawled out from under his mother and dashed over to a neighbor's house.

Help soon came and Decker was evacuated to the hospital.

Overnight, her husband, Joe Decker, tearfully said that the flattened house on Henryville Road had been their dream house.  Stephanie Decker had told her husband she always wanted to have the children's handprints imprinted in the foundation's cement, because "we were never gonna leave here."

And there they are today.  Small prints, with "Reese," and "D" for Dominic scrawled in the concrete, an indelible testimony to a family still intact.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio