Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trying to flee tornado by car proved deadly in Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY — It's a warning as familiar as a daily prayer for Tornado Alley residents: When a twister approaches, take shelter in a basement or low-level interior room or closet, away from windows and exterior walls.

But with the powerful devastation from the May 20 twister that killed 24 people and pummeled the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore still etched in their minds, many Oklahomans instead opted to flee Friday night when a violent tornado developed and headed toward the state's capital city.

It was a dangerous decision to make.

At least nine people were killed in Friday's storms, including a mother and her baby sucked out of their car as a deadly EF3 twister tore its way along a packed Interstate 40 near the town of El Reno, about 30 miles from Oklahoma City.

A 4-year-old boy died after being swept into the Oklahoma River on the south side of Oklahoma City, said police Lt. Jay Barnett. The boy and other family members had sought shelter in a drainage ditch.

More than 100 people were injured, most from punctures and lacerations from swirling debris, emergency officials reported.

Five tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City metro area, the National Weather Service said. None of the tornadoes were as powerful as the one that tore through much of Moore, a top-of-the-scale EF5.

Moore, 11 miles south of Oklahoma City, appeared to have been spared the kind of damage that was inflicted by the May 20 tornado, which destroyed an elementary school and killed 10 children.

As the tornadoes approached, interstates and roadways packed with rush-hour traffic quickly became parking lots as people tried to escape. Motorists were trapped in their vehicles — a place emergency officials say is one of the worst to be in a tornado.

"It was chaos. People were going southbound in the northbound lanes. Everybody was running for their lives," said Terri Black, 51, a teacher's assistant in Moore.

After seeing last month's tornado also turn homes into piles of splintered rubble, Black said she decided to try to outrun the storm. She quickly regretted it.

When she realized she was a sitting duck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Black turned around and found herself directly in the path of the storm.

"My car was actually lifted off the road and then set back down," Black said.

"I'll never do it again."

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said the roadways were congested with the convergence of rush-hour traffic and fleeing residents. "They had no place to go, and that's always a bad thing," she said.

Oklahoma wasn't the only state to see violent weather on Friday night. In Missouri, areas west of St. Louis received significant damage from an EF3 tornado that packed estimated winds of 150 mph. In St. Charles County, at least 71 homes were heavily damaged and 100 had slight to moderate damage, county spokeswoman Colene McEntee said.

Tens of thousands were without power, but only eight minor injuries were reported. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.

Northeast of St. Louis and across the Mississippi, the city of Roxana in Illinois was hit by an EF3 tornado as well, but National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said it wasn't clear whether the damage in both states came from the same EF3 twister or separate ones.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

Cars lie Saturday where they were tossed by a tornado in El Reno, Okla. At least nine people were killed in Friday’s storms.

Getty Images

Cars lie Saturday where they were tossed by a tornado in El Reno, Okla. At least nine people were killed in Friday’s storms.

Trying to flee tornado by car proved deadly in Okla. 06/01/13 [Last modified: Sunday, June 2, 2013 12:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht

    Nation

    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]
  2. 1 in 4 Florida adults aren't registered to vote, according to non-partisan group

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Five million people in Florida who are eligible to vote aren't registered, according to a nationwide non-partisan group that helps improve the accuracy of state voter rolls.

    Voters line up in front of the Coliseum Ballroom in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. A non-partisan group estimates that more than a quarter of Florida's adult-age population isn't registered to vote. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win

    Blogs

    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  4. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River

    Military

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  5. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]