A large and “extremely dangerous” tornado slammed into suburbs south of Oklahoma City as watches for destructive storms and flooding were posted in five states.
The tornado may have been a strong EF-3 or EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, said Ken Clark, an expert senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The storm’s debris field was about 1 1/2 mile wide and it churned on the ground for more than 40 minutes, he said.
KFOR-TV, the NBC affiliate, reported scores of houses were hit southeast of downtown Oklahoma City and at least two schools in Moore were leveled.
“This is a tornado emergency for Moore and South Oklahoma City,” the National Weather Service said at 3:16 p.m. local time. “Meteorologists and storm spotters were tracking a large and extremely dangerous tornado located near Moore,” 11 miles south of Oklahoma City.
As many as 55.7 million people, including residents of Dallas, Chicago and Indianapolis, face at least a slight risk of severe storms today, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
At least two people were killed and 39 injured yesterday as tornadoes struck Oklahoma, the Associated Press said. Two dozen tornado reports from Illinois to Oklahoma were logged by the storm center, according to the agency’s website.
Clark said there was another tornado elsewhere in Oklahoma today and one near Wichita Falls, Texas. In addition to the tornadoes, the region is also expecting heavy rains that may bring flash floods.
Three to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) of rain may fall as thunderstorms move east from Oklahoma and Kansas, according to the weather service. A tornado watch is in effect until 10 p.m. local time from northern Texas and parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.
“Frequent lightning and torrential rainfall will be the main impacts from this activity, although a few storms may produce hail up to the size of dimes,” the weather service said in a hazardous weather outlook. “The greatest risk of flash-flooding will occur along and north of the Interstate 44 corridor” from St. Louis to Wichita Falls.
The threat will continue tomorrow in an area including Tyler, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Shreveport, Louisiana.
A tornado in the Oklahoma City area on May 3, 1999, carried the highest winds ever recorded on earth, according to the weather service. Winds were measured at 302 miles (486 kilometers) per hour near Bridge Creek, Oklahoma.