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Flooding hampers Midwest clean-up efforts after storms

June 01, 2013|By Devin Kelly
  • Bystanders look at a crumbled building at a technology school in El Reno, Okla., after a series of tornadoes hit the area. At least nine people were killed and more than 100 injured.
Bystanders look at a crumbled building at a technology school in El Reno,… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )

Officials in three Midwestern states worked to assess damage and launch clean-up efforts a day after a series of tornadoes and violent storms struck Friday evening, killing at least nine people and triggering mass flooding.

Extensive flooding hampered the emergency response in Oklahoma on Saturday, particularly in the Oklahoma City area, where at least five tornadoes touched down Friday evening.

“With flooding, it takes a little bit more time. We have to wait for the floodwaters to recede before we can get in and start clean-up,” said Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

In the Midwest City suburb, for example, clean-up efforts in one mobile home park hit a standstill when residents were evacuated because of flooding, Cain said. Mass power outages were affecting more than 66,000 people in the Oklahoma City metro area, she added.

The death toll included seven adults and two children, according to Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner. Elliott said most of the fatalities were in western suburbs of Oklahoma City including Union City, Yukon and El Reno, where a tornado touched down late Friday.

Only two of the victims remained unidentified as of Saturday evening, Elliott said in a statement.

A total of 104 people were injured in the storms, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.

The storms also cut a wide swath through neighboring states. In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency as violent weather tore down power lines and flooded roads. On Friday, an EF-3 tornado caused extensive damage as it ripped across 22 miles from St. Charles County into north St. Louis County.

Several rounds of thunderstorms have dumped heavy rains on the state for days. The Mississippi River is now at 35.6 feet and is forecast to crest Tuesday at 40.5 feet, a threshold for major flooding, said Julie Phillipson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in St. Louis. The 40.5-foot marker would be the sixth-highest crest ever recorded on the river.

Meanwhile, in southwestern Illinois, an EF-2 tornado hit Madison County, causing damage to an industrial building, Phillipson said.

A second tornado, also ranked an EF-2, touched down in neighboring Macoupin County, causing damage to about 50 buildings, said James Pitchford, an emergency management official in the region.

“We had houses twisted off foundations, houses with roofs taken off,” Pitchford said.

A high school gymnasium in Gillespie, Ill., lost its roof to winds that reached 115 mph.

As with neighboring areas, the county has seen flash flooding, and people were rescued after being stranded on flooded roadways, Pitchford said.


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