Tornadoes hit Plains region as part of powerful U.S. storm system
The Associated Press
Published Sunday, May 17, 2015 7:10AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 17, 2015 7:16PM EDT
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A powerful storm system stretching from Texas to Minnesota raked the nation's midsection early Sunday, hours after kicking up damaging tornadoes in Oklahoma and heavy wind and rain around the region.
There were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries. Forecasters said the system was continuing its march eastward as radar showed storms across Iowa, Missouri and a large area of Texas.
Tornadoes touched down Saturday in southwestern Oklahoma near the towns of Elmer and Tipton, said National Weather Service forecaster Daryl Williams. He said another tornado touched down briefly near Elk City along Interstate 40, and there were several other possible tornadoes.
Authorities said they had reports a tornado touched down late Saturday northeast of Tulsa. And there were reports of large hail, some the size of baseballs in the state.
Oklahoma emergency officials said they also received reports of damage Saturday to homes and businesses and significant damage to power lines. Rain and wind were moving overnight across parts of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota, where there were some additional reports of possible tornadoes.
Bill Bunting, chief of operations for the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, said early Sunday that flash floods remained a concern in some areas in the wake of previous storms. He said damaging straight-line winds up to 60 mph were also a feature of the system in some areas.
"We are seeing pockets of damaging winds from Missouri south to northeast Oklahoma," Bunting said by phone early Sunday.
He said the storm grew out of a cold front extending from the North Central Plains into the Southern Plains that pushed up behind warm, moist air.
"It's a very strong upper level disturbance," Bunting said, noting it stretched at one point nearly to the U.S. border with Mexico. "It's as extensive an area as we've seen this year."
In Oklahoma, Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain said damage was reported in western Oklahoma and more than 3,000 power outages were reported statewide at one point on Saturday. She said power polls fell and roofs were damaged.
"This is just still very, very preliminary, but we're hearing a lot of damage to power lines, outbuildings. We've also heard reports of damage to homes and businesses, primarily in Major County and Roger Mills County," Cain said.
She said an emergency manager in the Tulsa area reported a tornado there touched down northeast of that big city shortly before midnight but it and associated storms then moved off into nearby Missouri.
(Storm chasing video)
"We haven't had any reports of damage" from that tornado early Sunday, Cain said by phone. "Of course, it was almost midnight and very dark so we might hear of damage" later Sunday.
Cain said authorities in Wagoner County in the state's northeast also reported roof damage and power poles down but that teams would have to inspect that damage after daybreak Sunday.
Cain warned a risk of isolated flooding remained Sunday.
(Storm chasing video)
"We've gotten a lot of rain in a short time. The ground is saturated, so every time we get another big soaking, the rain causes more flash flooding," Cain said.
U.S. Highway 283 at Elmer was closed because of a downed power line and the town was without power, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported. Public Service Company of Oklahoma reported about 1,800 power outages in the region.
Jared Guyer, a forecaster with the weather service's Storm Prediction Center, said storms with rain and hail could continue Sunday.
Last weekend's weather caused several tornadoes, flooding and at least four deaths.