Unusual sequence of events turns nighttime tornado deadly

April 16th, 2012by Kent Edwardsin Woodward, Oklahoma

Seven people and three dogs survived while taking cover in this structure. All survivors sustained injuries from minor to severe except for the dogs, all of which were unharmed The town’s tornado warning system did not function because it had been rendered non-operative due to a lighting strike. In addition, lightning also knocked out electricity to the town residents before the tornado Surviving the Stormreached town. There was no warning whatsoever. The tornado hit town 12:35 am Sunday morning.

I visited with one survivor who rode out the storm in this structure. This person is a young and fit personal trainer. She told me she was upside down and could not move any part of her body until she was dug out and has a clothes dryer on top of her. The entire family was rescued by neighbors in the light of auto headlamps. It was a miracle that anyone survived. The dwelling is no longer recognizable and now a pile of debris.

It is worth noting that this home and several others were relatively new and very large structures; none of them had a tornado shelter. All of the other homes in the neighborhood were built a few years earlier and were slightly little smaller in size; all of them had storm shelters or safe rooms.

The tornado was estimated at F3 toF4 at this location which is close to where the multi-vortex tornado touched down on the West side of town, population 12,000. The tornado quickly decreased in intensity to F3 which traveled in a North/Northeasterly direction across town for approximately 4 miles. The path of destruction was mostly narrow, approximately 100 to 200 yards in width. Where the tornado hit, damage was severe. Adjacent and surrounding houses often appeared to have incurred minor to moderate damage.

Seven deaths have been reported along with over thirty others being hospitalized of which ten are in critical condition. Property damage is estimated to include 87 homes and 13 businesses which were destroyed.

Most of the power to the town had failed along with warning sirens due to a lightning strike and most of the townspeople were unaware of the approaching storm. The people who did know about the approaching storm were kept informed with cell phone weather apps downloaded from Oklahoma news stations.

Lessons Learned:
  • Safe rooms and storm shelters do save lives.
  • Download weather apps from local or state news stations. Some Oklahoma City sources are: KFOR, KOCO, and News 9.

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