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Toll in Oklahoma twisters rises to 9

February 12, 2009|Associated Press

LONE GROVE, OKLA. — Rescuers sorted through bricks and shattered plywood Wednesday in search of more victims of a deadly tornado that blasted through a small Oklahoma town where many people in a trailer park had no way to escape.

The death toll rose to nine Wednesday when an injured man died in a hospital, Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said. Others were killed by flying debris, and one man was crushed by a pickup truck.

There were also miraculous tales of survival: People taking shelter in a closet pulled a woman to safety after the tornado blew part of the roof off and threatened to carry her away. Another woman was found injured but alive beneath an overturned mobile home.

Residents of Lone Grove, a town of 4,600 about 100 miles south of Oklahoma City, awoke Wednesday to find much of their community in ruins.

Shirley Mose was not at home when the tornado struck, but she returned to find the house destroyed and her pickup truck wrecked.

"I had a little Chihuahua that stayed in there," Mose said. "We found her bed, but not her. I guess she's gone."

The Lone Grove twister had winds estimated at 170 mph and remained on the ground for more than an hour, the National Weather Service said in its preliminary assessment.

It was among a cluster of unusual February tornadoes that touched down Tuesday in Oklahoma. Half a dozen homes and several businesses were also damaged in Oklahoma City and suburban Edmond, but no serious injuries were reported there.

Authorities gave as much as 35 minutes' warning that a twister was approaching.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday, meaning a twister was imminent and residents should take shelter. Another warning was issued at 7:15 p.m. when the tornado was spotted. It hit Lone Grove at 7:25 p.m.

"A lot of people just didn't leave," Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said.

Tornadoes are relatively rare in the winter.

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