Storm brings tornadoes, dumps heavy rain on Oklahoma, Missouri
A storm system that wrought havoc on the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, generating a handful of tornadoes that killed five people and sent tens of thousands scrambling for shelter, moved late Friday over Missouri.
The National Weather Service warned a “confirmed and extremely dangerous tornado” was near the city of Harvester, about 25 miles northwest of St. Louis.
There were no immediate reports of catastrophic damage or major injuries in the St. Louis area, said Jeff Rainford, the chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay. Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was closed because of the severe weather, and minor damage was reported to a terminal, he said.
As authorities in Missouri urged people to take shelter, officials in Oklahoma were working to determine how many people had been killed and injured in the storm that battered the state’s largest city.
A mother and a child were among five people killed as a result of severe weather, and another 14 were injured, authorities said.
At the height of the storm, the National Weather Service issued a tornado emergency for a number of areas in and around Oklahoma’s capital city, with tornadoes reported outside Moore, near the suburb of Bethany, north of Union City and outside Tinker Air Force Base.
Parts of Interstates 35 and 40, which cut through Oklahoma City and Moore, were “a parking lot,” the weather service said, warning that those caught in the heavy rush hour traffic “are in danger.”
“We’ve got a nightmare situation going on right now,” Betsy Randolph, a state Highway Patrol spokeswoman, told CNN.
“They are essentially sitting ducks on the interstate.”
Overturned big rigs and cars littered portions of the roadway, and thousands more were believed to be stuck in the traffic.
“My biggest concern right now is the traffic that is out on the highway right now,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said.
She said she has called out the National Guard, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the state Office of Emergency Management to “try to get the traffic moving” and get people to shelter.
The weather service issued the tornado emergency for Oklahoma City as well as its suburbs of Moore, Yukon and Bethany.