Entries in Tornadoes (72)


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


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


Few Tornadoes, Record Low Number of Deaths Over Past Year

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NORMAN, Okla.) -- Just two years after the worst 12 month period for EF1 or stronger tornados in U.S. history, the country got a big break, as new research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that last year saw a record low number of severe twisters.

From May 2010 to April 2011, the United States was hit by over 1,000 big tornados, causing more than 535 deaths. The most recent period, from May of last year until this past April, saw only seven tornado fatalities, and less than 200 tornadoes recorded.

According to Harold Brooks, a scientist with the National Severe Storm Lab in Norman, Oklah., it’s “the fewest number of tornado fatalities in a 12 month period since the 19th century.”

Scientists have data about tornados and tornado-related deaths going back to 1954.

Why has the nation been so lucky on this front compared to two years ago? Experts say that a hot summer and a cold winter are factors.

“In the summer-time, when it's very hot, what we tend to have is the jet-stream is located far north into Canada, and it tends to be very dry at the surface, that's why we have droughts,” explained Brooks. “When the jet-stream is that far north, the change in the winds with height is weak over the middle part of the country and so none of the ingredients come together to produce the kinds of environments we want to have for tornadoes.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Severe Weather Spawns over 30 Tornado Reports Across South

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Severe Christmas Day weather tore across the deep South, creating 34 possible tornadoes and killing at least three people.

The storm first pounded Texas, then touched down in Louisiana and blasted through homes in Mississippi.  In Mobile, Ala., a wide funnel cloud barreled across the city as lightning flashed inside.

Bill Bunting with the National Weather Service's Severe Storms Prediction Center said that the damage may not yet be done.

"Conditions don't look quite as volatile over a large area as we saw on Christmas Day but there will be a risk of tornadoes, some of them could be rather strong, across eastern portions of North Carolina and the northeastern part of South Carolina," he said.

Across the Gulf region, from Texas to Florida, over 280,000 customers are still without power, with 100,000 without power in Little Rock, Ark., alone.

Meanwhile, at least eight states were also placed under blizzard warnings on Tuesday, as the storms made highways dangerously slick heading into one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Tuesday's extreme weather even caused an eight-foot-deep sinkhole in Vicksburg, Miss.

Alma Jackson told ABC News that a concrete tank that was in her backyard fell into the sinkhole.  "It's really very disturbing," she said.  "Because it's on Christmas day, and then to see this big hole in the ground and not have any explanation, and not be able to cover it.  And the rain is pouring down."

The last time a number of tornadoes hit the Gulf Coast area around Christmas Day was in 2009, when 22 tornadoes struck on Christmas Eve morning, National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro told ABC News in an email.

The deadliest Christmastime tornado outbreak on record was Dec. 24 through 26, 1982, when 29 tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi killed three people and injured 32.

The last killer tornado around Christmas, Vaccaro said, was a Christmas Eve EF4 in Tennessee in 1988, which killed one person and injured seven.  EF4 tornadoes can produce winds up to 200 mph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Snow Storm Threatens Post-Christmas Travel

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A huge storm that dumped heavy snow and rain on the West Coast is expected to move east and could spoil travel plans for people looking to return home the day after Christmas, which is considered one of the busiest travel days.

The storm is forecast to move east over the next few days and drop snow in Oklahoma starting Monday before finishing up in the Northeast sometime Wednesday.

The Midwest will be covered with snow by Wednesday, likely causing delays at major airports in cities including Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago just in time for post-Christmas travel, when millions of Americans will be on the move.

Snow could arrive in the Northeast by Thursday, dropping 1-3 inches over parts of New England.

In Syracuse, N.Y., plows are working overtime, dealing with two consecutive days of snow this weekend during the city's first snowstorm of the season.  As the city continues to dig out, all eyes are watching the storm roll in from the west.

Torrential rain and heavy winds have also caused trouble for California's Bay Area over the weekend, which has seen severe flooding, power outages and delays for those planning to fly out for the holidays.

More than 400 flights were canceled on Sunday at San Francisco International Airport.  Travelers had to deal with more than 200 cancellations on Saturday.

So far this month, San Francisco has gotten almost five inches of rain -- almost twice as much as the area gets for the entire month of December.

Severe snow and rain are not the only issues facing Americans looking to get home before the New Year.  Several states in the Gulf of Mexico, all the way from Houston to Raleigh, N.C., are bracing for possible tornadoes starting on Monday and lasting until Wednesday.

The biggest chance for tornadoes will be Tuesday from Houston to New Orleans to Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta.

AAA predicts 93.3 million people will travel more than 50 miles this holiday season, from Saturday, Dec. 22, through New Year's Day.  That's a 1.6 percent increase from last year.  

Christmas is the third-busiest holiday for travelers, after Memorial Day and Thanksgiving.  AAA is urging drivers to leave earlier or later to dodge bad weather.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Severe Winter Weather Upends Holiday Travel Plans

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Snow, wind and rain have disrupted holiday travel plans across the Midwest, South and Northeast over the past two days, prompting reports of 200 severe weather incidents and four tornadoes.

Lashing winds and blowing snow stretched from Nebraska to Michigan overnight, shutting down major highways across the region as drivers struggled to stay on the road.  At least 1,000 accidents have been reported, with one north of Des Moines, Iowa, where at least 25 vehicles slammed into each other.  There were so many accidents in Iowa that the National Guard was called in to help motorists, including pre-teen Isaac Wilson.

"The U.S. Army came and put us in this really fancy truck, and we got blankets and snacks and drove all the way here," Wilson of Millard, Iowa, told ABC News.

Two tornadoes reportedly touched down in Arkansas, while one was reported in Alabama and another in Florida.  The most significant damage was from a tornado in Mobile, Ala., with winds of 86 to 110 mph and a path length of 7 miles.

Severe storms have moved off shore on Friday and the Southeast and the Gulf Coast are expected to dry out.

Up to 20 inches of snow fell in Madison, Wis., while up to 14 inches fell in Iowa.  Madison, Dubuque, Iowa, and Des Moines all had daily record snowfall on Thursday.  The University of Wisconsin cancelled some final exams.

In Chicago, the rain finally changed to snow, but the precipitation has almost ended, so less than a half an inch of snow has accumulated at O'Hare Airport.  Still, there were 600 flight cancellations reported on Thursday, as people struggle with pre-Christmas travel.

Snow is coming to an end in Chicago, and most of the Midwest.  A few more inches are still possible for Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Thirteen states from Iowa to Maine are under winter weather watches, warnings and advisories.

In the Northeast, high-wind warnings have been posted for major cities, from Washington, D.C., to New York and Boston, with some minor damage and power outages possible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wild Weather, Tornadoes Hit Mid-Atlantic States

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Rare Tornado warnings were up most of Friday in and around Washington, D.C., with heavy winds and rain pounding the mid-Atlantic states for most of the day.  

A possible tornado has touched down in Fallston, Md., a senior Maryland state official tells ABC News.  Except for reports that one building has collapsed, the official says damage from the tornado was not particularly devasting.

Harford County had seen the most significant weather, but a total of six Maryland counties reported possible tornadic activity.  There have also been reports of tornadoes in Raleigh Terrace, Va., at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, as well as storm damage in Merrimac Shores, Va.

The Harford County Fire EMS told ABC News affiliate WJLA that two dozen buildings, both residential and commercial, were severely damaged in Friday's wild storms. Tree tops were wiped out, and at least two people were injured when the roof of a car dealership collapsed. One of the injured was taken to the local hospital, the other was taken to a Baltimore shock trauma unit.

Tornado watches remain in effect through midnight ET from Pennsylvania through Maryland.  Damaging winds are likely from around Pittsburg to Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Va., and Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina. Saturday those areas can expect possible flash flooding after the rain subsides.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Helmets Save Lives During Tornadoes, Scientists Say

Image Credit: Stewart Family(NEW YORK) -- As families in Alabama come together to remember the nearly 250 people killed one year ago today in devastating tornadoes, authorities were begging residents to pay close attention to the story of 8-year-old Noah Stewart.

“He was caught up as high as a power pole … just being spun around and then he came down and hit the ground” said Noah’s mother, Lisa Stewart.

Noah is alive today because of a bicycle helmet his mother gave him to put on his head.

“It felt like I went head-first into the concrete. I think it actually just broke in pieces,” Noah Stewart told ABC News. “I think I just went straight down and just hit my head and it completely broke.”

Today, the Centers for Disease Control reports that many of those who were killed did exactly what they should. They ran to basements, bathrooms and other safe places. There was plenty of warning, but none of this was enough.

Scientists at the University of Alabama found that in one county they studied at least half of those killed died from head injuries that could have been prevented.

“If there is a severe weather alert, protect your head,” Russ Fine, an injury epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told ABC News, “whether it’s a hard hat from a construction site, a football helmet, a motorcycle helmet [or] a bicycle helmet.”

In Joplin, Mo., it was a bicycle helmet that saved the life of Augie Gonzales. Of all things, it was a toilet that hit him in the head. Fortunately, he was uninjured.

“I know the helmet saved my son,” said his mother, Natalie Gonzales.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New National Weather Service Warnings Helped, Meteorologist Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- When it comes to escaping the path of a tornado, every second counts.

So when an unpredictable, massive storm system that produced over 75 reported twisters began brewing in the Plains states over the weekend, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center took the unusual step of issuing dire warnings in advance, using phrases like “life-threatening event” and “catastrophic.”

For the next few weeks, the NWS will be studying whether these series of warnings, using specific, powerful words, will make a difference in helping people survive these vicious storms.

Mike Hudson, a meteorologist for the NWS, said the test conducted over the weekend worked. "Early indication says that our warnings did help people make decisions in order to deal with the storm and it ultimately saved lives,” Hudson said.

Some NWS offices issued warnings that sounded almost Armageddon-like. On Saturday morning, the weather service in Wichita, Kan., warned that residents “could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter” and that “mass devastation is highly likely, making the area unrecognizable to survivors.”

“What we’re attempting to do with impact-based warning is to address risk,” Hudson said. “People make a decision based on experiences they’ve had in the past. By using words that describe what’s going to happen, people will make appropriate decisions and seek shelter.”

Typically, warnings are issued minutes prior to storms hitting a given area, and even people who live in towns with tornado sirens have been caught off-guard. Over the weekend, in Woodward, Okla., 20 tornado sirens failed to sound after the power had been knocked out. Six people were killed, including three children.

“The nighttime tornadoes are extremely dangerous…and the sirens are one part of the warning system puzzle,” Hudson said. “Ultimately the important thing is getting that information.”

Hudson said that that being underground is the safest place to be in a tornado. But for those who don’t have a basement, Hudson advises going to a room in the middle of the house or a storm shelter. Do not be outside or in a mobile home, he said.

“Best advice for people living in areas prone to tornadoes: Have multiple ways to get information about the threat,” he said. "Take action on it and make decisions that could save your life.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Three Children Among Five Dead in Oklahoma After Tornado Outbreak

Julie Denesha/Getty ImagesUPDATE: ABC News has learned of another fatality in Woodward, Okla., bringing the death toll up to six.

(WOODWARD, Okla.) -- Three children under the age of 10 are among the five found dead in Woodward, Okla., after violent storms ripped through several states in the nation's mid-section.

Even as crews worked to clean up the damage across the region on Sunday, residents braced for more violent weather that was in the forecast.  Three new tornado warnings were issued until 11 p.m. that included Minneapolis; Little Rock, Ark.; and St. Louis.

The threat across the region Sunday also included possible hailstorms, forecasters said.

Along with the five fatalities, 29 people suffering from cuts and bruises to serious injuries were taken to Woodward Regional Hospital, according to officials.

Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said the twister knocked out a transmitter that should have sent out warning sirens.

"Most people were in bed and without warning, it came through," Riffel said.

Officials are still searching for bodies.

"We've had a fatality number of five and we don't expect to find more, but we're not stopping the search now," Riffel said.

From Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, there were more than 120 reports of tornadoes since Saturday.

Residents were warned this weekend about the outbreak of violent weather, which forecasters predicted as potentially "life-threatening."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio