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Death toll from Friday's Oklahoma tornado rises to 14

June 03, 2013|By Michael Muskal

The death toll from last week’s tornado that tore through Oklahoma rose to 14 -- three of whom were noted storm-chasers -- as rescuers on Monday continued their search for survivors.

As of Monday morning, the official count from the tornado, the latest in a series of twisters to cross the state, stood at 14 dead, one more that had been previously counted, according to a statement from the state medical examiner’s office. The dead included five children and nine adults.

Authorities said that half a dozen people, mainly children, are believed to still be missing and the hope of finding them alive was fading.

PHOTOS: Tornado slams Oklahoma

This comes on the heels of the deadly storm that tore through the Moore, Okla., area on May 20, killing 24 people, including 10 children. That tornado carried winds in excess of 200 mph, making it a top-ranked storm, an EF5 as measured on the Enhanced Fujita scale.

By comparison, Friday’s tornado, which moved along Interstate 40, was an EF3 with winds between 136 mph and 165 mph. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Sunday said that 115 people had been injured.

The damage was not limited to Oklahoma. Officials on Monday reported that the death toll from storm-related flooding in Arkansas had risen to five in the mountains near Y City, 125 miles west of Little Rock.

Friday’s tornado also slammed the areas west of St. Louis, leaving more than 150 homes damaged or destroyed.

Remnants of the storm could be felt as far away as New England and South Carolina. The National Weather Service was predicting more storms in the Northeast, but at a lesser pace than during the weekend. Storms brought down trees and utility poles, leaving as many as 12,000 people without power on Monday morning in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Over the weekend, as many as 40,000 people were without electricity.

MAP: Tornado's path

Among the dead in Oklahoma were three veteran storm-chasers, scientists who follow tornadoes in the hope of measuring and studying the phenomenon that is an annual occurrence in parts of the Midwest and South. Tornadoes are also the stuff of movie legend, from the “The Wizard of Oz” to “Twister.”

Tim Samaras, his son Paul and colleague Carl Young died Friday night when the tornado apparently turned on them near El Reno, Okla. The deaths are believed to be the first among scientific researchers while chasing tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said on Monday.

The team produced material for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and meteorological conferences. Tim Samaras, 54, of Bennett, Colo., had a reputation for being safe, but he was trapped on the highway with his 24-year-old son, who also was from Bennett, and Young, 45, who taught geology at Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

“We are terribly saddened by this news. Samaras was a respected tornado researcher and friend of NOAA who brought to the field a unique portfolio of expertise in engineering, science, writing and videography. His work was documented through an extensive list of formal publications and conference papers,” said the statement released Monday. Others responded with tributes on Twitter.

“I don't know if I would say I worried about it because one of the biggest things he stressed was safety,” said Tim's brother, Jim Samaras, who confirmed the deaths to The Associated Press. “He knew what to look for. He knew where not to be, and in this case, the tornado took a clear turn toward them.”

“He looked at tornadoes not for the spotlight of TV but for the scientific aspect,” Jim Samaras said. “At the end of the day, he wanted to save lives and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for that.”


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