Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sunday night in tornado alley: some observations

We spent a couple of hours following the path of this storm Sunday night, after it first brushed by southern Tulsa County (pre-tornadic and with precious little moisture).
Eight residents from the Twin Oaks area and two Colcord residents suffered minor injuries a Sunday night tornado. (...)

Twin Oaks, a rural farming community about five miles west of Kansas, OK, and northeast of Oaks, was hit hard. The tornado first was spotted about 9 p.m. Sunday near Peggs. It moved north-northeast past Twin Oaks, Oaks, Kansas and Colcord before ending near Bentonville, Ark.

An unconfirmed report indicated the tornado was between an F2 and F3 and cut a half-mile to a mile wide path for 25 miles, from Rose to the Arkansas state line, said Gary Metcalf, Delaware County Emergency Management director.


The twister uprooted hundreds of 40-foot trees, leaving 10-foot diameter holes where century-old trees once stood.


Residents are likely to be without electricity, telephone service, and water for several days. Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative reported 96 utility poles down.

"With most of the ponds dried up, people here depend on their wells," said Larry Barnett with the Delaware County Sheriff's Department. Water is pumped with electricity, and "It's going to be rough with no water."

That's an understatement. The well-prepared rural resident should have a portable electric generator, or an option hand pump, on his well.

But preparation apparently isn't a priority: Many of the 67 homes damaged were of the mobile variety. We will never understand their attraction, other than their purchase price. Sooner or later, if you live in tornado alley, you will encounter a twister. If you take a direct hit from a big one, it doesn't matter what you live in, but the trailer homes don't even handle a close encounter well. Prudence would dictate another type of dwelling, or at least a hardened shelter close by.

An interesting feature of this tornado is that it was very quiet, missing the freight train roar so commonly described.

"I didn't hear that roar people talk about," Delaware County Sheriff Jay Blackfox said.

Blackfox's home had roof damage, and he lost two barns in the storm. His parents lost their home and his neighbor's home was destroyed.

"It was real quiet and eerie when it hit," Blackfox said. "My brother-in-law opened the door and there it was." (...)

"I was watching the news on TV with my family," Joe Snell said. "The next thing you knew, the house was shaking."

Snell and his family have lived in their Twin Oaks home for almost two years.

In the short time it took Snell and his family to get in a car to flee, the tornado struck, he said.

"We were real scared," Snell said. "It seemed like it was following us."

A neighbor got out of the family's mobile home just before it was lifted off its frame, slammed into an abandoned house, then sent flying over the top of Snell's home. Snell said the family members were taken to the hospital.

And you wondered why they still call them "mobile" even after the wheels are taken off?


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