By Sean Murphy
---- — EDMOND, Okla. — A powerful storm system rumbled through the Plains and upper Midwest yesterday, spawning tornadoes that damaged homes and buildings near Oklahoma City and put the Tulsa area on high-alert.
There were no immediate reports of injuries caused by any of the tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma and Kansas, including one that hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond before moving northeast toward Tulsa, 90 miles to the northeast.
For days, forecasters had been warning about the possibility of tornadoes from a weekend storm, and emergency responders as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Texas were keeping a close eye on the powerful system pushing eastward and northward through the nation’s breadbasket.
“I knew it was coming,” said Randy Grau, who huddled with his wife and two young boys in their Edmond’s home’s safe room when the tornado hit. He said he peered out his window as the weather worsened and believed he saw a flock of birds heading down the street.
“Then I realized it was swirling debris. That’s when we shut the door of the safe room, said Grau, adding that they sheltered in the room for 10 minutes.
In Wichita, Kan., a tornado touched down near Mid-Content Airport on the city’s southwest side shortly before 4 p.m., knocking out power to 7,500 homes and businesses but bypassing the most populated areas of Kansas’ biggest city.
“At this point, there are very few reports of damage and no reports of fatalities or injuries, and we’re very grateful for that,” said Sedgwick County Emergency Management Director Randy Duncan.
In Oklahoma, aerial television news footage showed homes that appeared to have suffered significant damage northeast of Oklahoma City. Some outbuildings appeared to have been leveled, and some homes’ roofs or walls had been knocked down.
“When I first drove into the neighborhood, I didn’t see any major damage until I pulled into the front of my house,” said Csabe Mathe, of Edmond, who found a part of his neighbor’s fence in his swimming pool. “My reaction was: I hope insurance pays for the cleaning.”
“I typically have two trash cans, and now I have five in my driveway.”
The Storm Prediction Center had been warning about severe weather in the region since Wednesday, and on Friday, it zeroed in yesterday as the day the storm system would likely pass through.
“They’ve been calling for this all day,” Edmond resident Anita Wright said after riding out the twister in an underground shelter. She and her husband Ed emerged from their hiding place to find uprooted trees, downed limbs and damaged gutters in their home.
In Katie Leathers’ backyard, the family’s trampoline was tossed through a section of fence and a giant tree uprooted.
“I saw all the trees waving, and that’s when I grabbed everyone and got into two closets,” Leathers said. “All these trees just snapped.”
Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.