Devastating tornado strikes Oklahoma 31/05/2013
A tornado emergency was declared for Oklahoma City on Friday as a large twister touched down, destroyed a Weather Channel vehicle and made a beeline for Oklahoma's largest city, where authorities pleaded with residents to seek shelter immediately.
No injuries were immediately reported after the tornado touched down near El Reno, in Canadian County west of Oklahoma City, authorities said. But extensive damage was reported around El Reno and Yukon, NBC station KFOR of Oklahoma City reported, which said about 22,000 customers were without power.
A vehicle being used by Weather Channel personnel near El Reno was thrown 200 yards by the tornado, said Mike Bettes, a meteorologist for the station. Bettes and his crew weren't hurt, but the vehicle was destroyed.
The tornado, which at its strongest point approached a mile wide, was bearing down on the downtown area of south Oklahoma City, The Weather Channel and KFOR reported. The National Weather Service declared a tornado emergency, which signifies conditions that could lead to widespread damage and a high likelihood of casualties.
"It's as clear as day — it is heading for downtown Oklahoma City," KFOR meteorologist Mike Morgan said.
Tornado warnings — meaning a tunnel cloud that could become a tornado had been spotted in the area — were in effect for numerous counties in Oklahoma and Missouri. Forecasters sounded the alarm that much of the Midwest — already pummeled by a week of tornadoes and flooded with drenching rains — was staring at yet another round of twisters overnight and into the weekend.