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Tornadoes Reported in Oklahoma as Storms Batter Central and Southern U.S.

Severe storms were lashing the central United States early Tuesday, after a tornado destroyed parts of two Oklahoma communities and large hail fell in Kansas. Earlier, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center issued a rare “high risk” severe storm threat for the region, warning of intense thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds that could continue through the night .

At least 15 tornadoes were reported to have struck parts of the central United States Monday evening.

Seven of the tornadoes were reported to have touched down in Oklahoma, two in Iowa, two in Kansas, two in South Dakota, one in Nebraska and one in Tennessee, according to the weather service. Hail the size of a baseball fell Kansas. The extent of the damage is unclear, the service added, but more severe weather, possibly including more tornadoes, is expected.

A tornado swept away about a third of the small northeastern Oklahoma town of Barnsdall, destroying or damaging buildings and injuring several people hospitalized in about 20 ambulances, said Jerry Roberts, director of management. Osage County Emergency Department. The tornado also lifted the roof of a nursing home in Barnsdall, said Steven Cobb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Tulsa.

As the storm intensified, the National Weather Service issued a rare tornado emergency alert, which warns of catastrophic damage and a serious threat to human life, for approximately 30 minutes in parts of Osage County and Washington County, Oklahoma.

The tornado destroyed power lines in its path, leaving entire towns without power, Mr. Cobb said. It landed near Barnsdall around 9:30 p.m. and moved northeast toward Bartlesville, until it took off around 10:15 p.m., he said.

Barnsdall was also hit by a tornado last month, but Monday’s tornado appeared more powerful, rated at a 2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which ranges from 0 to 5, Mr. Cobb said.

In Bartlesville, the most severe damage was in the southwest and northeast sides of the city, said Kery Cox, Washington County emergency management director. Emergency workers rescued people trapped at a Hampton Inn and were recovering downed power lines early Tuesday, the city of Bartlesville said. The city said minor injuries had been reported, without specifying the number.

More than 6 million people in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas were under tornado watches early Tuesday. At around 12:15 a.m. local time, the weather service issued a tornado warning for Oklahoma City and the area east of it.

“This is a particularly dangerous situation,” the National Weather Service said Monday afternoon. social networks of the tornado threat in Oklahoma. In Garfield County, Oklahoma, severe weather destroyed barns, felled trees and sent cars hydroplaning into ditches, but no one was injured, said Mike Honigsberg, county emergency management director. .

The Storm Prediction Center, part of the weather service, predicted its highest risk level for the first time since March 31, 2023. On that day, 131 tornadoes formed in 11 states, from the Midwest to the South.

The last high risk level for Oklahoma was on May 20, 2019, when 35 tornadoes occurred across five states, mostly in the Plains.

Here’s what you need to know about storms:

  • There is a risk of “strong to potentially long-lasting tornadoes, including large to giant hail, the size of a baseball or softball,” according to Ms. Butler.

  • Storms in western Oklahoma are expected to move eastward overnight.

  • There is some possibility of tornadoes, although less than in the high risk zone, in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas. Oklahoma City forecasters warned that any storm that forms could produce a dangerous tornado.

Forecasters raised the risk level Monday morning as conditions in the Plains evolved, increasing their confidence that several significant tornadoes could occur on potentially long paths.

“Everyone in affected areas should have a safety plan,” Ms Butler said.

The weather service describes the environment of southern Kansas and Oklahoma as being “similar to some past high-end, even historic severe weather events and tornadoes.”

A risk of flooding could also occur as heavy rain increases over parts of eastern Kansas and Nebraska, as well as western Iowa and Missouri, as a front moves out of the Rocky Mountains , according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The Weather Prediction Center warned of a slight risk of excessive precipitation over parts of the Central Plains and Middle Mississippi Valley Monday through Tuesday morning. Heavy rain could cause flash flooding in urban areas, roads, small streams and low-lying areas.

This risk of severe weather comes a week after more than two dozen tornadoes were reported and at least five people were killed in Oklahoma and Iowa, including an infant, authorities said.

The current threat will not end on Monday. More storms are forecast for the next few days, mainly Wednesday, from Texas to Ohio.

Livia Albeck-Ripka, John Yoon And Jesus Jiménez reports contributed.

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