Breaking News: Oklahoma Communities being Hammered by Tornado's
Included in the declaration are: Atoka, Carter, Coal, Creek, Custer, Delaware, Harper, Johnston, Latimer, LeFlore, Lincoln, Love, Marshall, Murray, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pushmataha, Rogers, Seminole, Tulsa, Wagoner, Washington, and Woodward.
Weather officials say preliminary assessments show at least five tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma as a powerful storm system rumbled through the state.
"At one time, we had two, three, four on the ground at once," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. "We've had some damage on the ground, but once again, we're all still watching the storms and trying to keep safe."
Emergency workers say a number of people were injured at Piedmont, a small community 20 miles northwest of downtown Oklahoma City.
Spokeswoman Lara O'Leary of the region's Emergency Medical Service Authority said ambulances were sent to the scene.
The tornado that hit Piedmont was on the ground for more than an hour Tuesday afternoon, giving forecasters plenty of time to warn residents. Interstate 40 was closed west of the city as the storm crossed the roadway near suburban El Reno.
"We're still waiting on reports of damage in that area," Fallin said
National Weather Service meteorologist Ty Judd said Friday the most powerful of the twisters hit the town of Tushka in southeast Oklahoma, where at least two people were killed and dozens injured.Judd says teams of meteorologists were in the field Friday surveying damage to determine the strength of the tornadoes.
Joplin in southwestern Missouri — already reeling from the deadliest tornado to strike the United States in more than 60 years — braced for a second punch.
A single twister in Joplin on Sunday killed at least 122 people. More than 750 were injured. That's the highest toll from one tornado since accurate record-keeping began, surpassing the 116 people who were killed in a single twister in Flint, Mich., on April 27, 1953.
And the Joplin figure is expected to rise. Preliminary estimates say the twister was an EF4 on the Fujita scale — the second-highest rating assigned to tornadoes based on the damage they cause.
The National Weather Service reported the tornado touched down Tuesday north of Canton, about 110 kilometres northwest of Oklahoma City, and moved east/northeast.
Damage was reported but Alicia Carmago with the Blaine County Sheriff's Office says officials couldn't immediately confirm any injuries.
CBC News meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.
The huge thunderstorm that spawned the Joplin tornado formed over southeastern Kansas on Sunday afternoon, along the boundary between warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry air moving south from Canada.
Tornados can occur during any month in the United States. But May, June and July are the most active months, with an average of more than 800.
While the numbers this year are only preliminary, more than 1,000 tornadoes were reported up to the end of April. This could turn out to be one of the worst years on record for tornadoes and severe weather.
Here's what's happening: During the peak months — in late spring and early summer — cool, dry air clashes with humid, warm air right over the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. This year that combination has been particularly extreme, especially when you throw in strong winds at varying altitudes that help to ignite the storms.
The ingredients are ripe again Tuesday for more thunderstorms. A large section from Kansas to Texas is at risk of severe weather today.
Though the storm has passed, danger was by no means over. Fires from gas leaks burned across Joplin on Tuesday. The smell of ammonia and propane filled the air in some damaged areas. Unstable buildings also posed threats, as whipping winds threaten to finish them off.
And the forecast looks grim: a mix of warm and cold air meeting has raised the possibility of more storms in the area Tuesday night, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
The centre expects a possible large tornado outbreak in the Midwest on Tuesday and bad weather potentially reaching the East Coast by Friday.
"This is a very serious situation brewing," centre director Russell Schneider said. The Storm Prediction Center also issued a high-risk warning before the deadly outbreak in the south in April.
Joplin Mayor Mark Rohr told a media briefing Tuesday morning that the search-and-rescue effort was continuing while the weather remained good, with search dogs and handlers coming "from all over."
Fire Chief Mitch Randles said searchers were still finding survivors and bodies, but the official number of deaths remains 116. Seven survivors were found Monday, including one inside the wreckage of a Home Depot outlet.
Asked about looting, a spokesman for the state police said there had been isolated problems, but they had been taken care of. Police are checking everyone leaving the area, he said.
He urged sightseers to stay away. "Yesterday, there was a problem with sightseers coming in," he said. "Every news station is streaming this live and on the internet. If you want to watch and see the destruction, watch it on TV."
After a record-breaking April, May is shaping up to be a busy month for tornadoes. Preliminary reports suggest more than 1,000 tornadoes touched down in April alone.
The twister that hit Joplin was one of more than 50 reported across seven Midwestern states over the weekend. One person was killed in Minneapolis and another in Kansas, but Missouri took the hardest hits.
Flash-flooding warnings remained in place around Joplin through Tuesday after more thunderstorms Monday.
Amid the despair, there were glimmers of hope: rescuers pulled 17 people from the rubble, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vowed that crews would keep searching until everyone is accounted for.
Survivor Ken Farris describes how his family home was destroyed around him
"They still think there are folks that could be alive," Nixon told The Associated Press. Searchlights were brought in for work to continue overnight
Other twisters touched down briefly in Lincoln County, northwest of Stroud, and near Lake of the Arbuckles in southern Oklahoma. A small tornado also touched down near Madill, and a fifth tornado developed east of Tushka near the town of Lane.
Fallin is expected to tour damage in Tushka on Saturday. She was supposed to visit the town on Friday, but her spokesman Aaron Cooper says she cancelled because winds were too strong for a helicopter flight to the area about 120 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.