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Death toll rises to 2 in Oklahoma tornadoes; more storms expected

May 20, 2013|By Michael Muskal

The death toll from the most recent outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest climbed to two on Monday morning as parts of four states braced for the possibility of more storms by nightfall.

An official at the Oklahoma state medical examiner’s office said that two people were killed in Shawnee when a tornado roared through a mobile home park in the central part of the state. Several tornadoes struck the area and one devastated the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park on Sunday.

Office spokeswoman Amy Elliot identified the two confirmed dead as Glen Irish, 79, and Billy Hutchinson, 76. Irish appears to have been a resident of the mobile home park and Hutchinson was killed in a car, she said. It was not known if Hutchinson lived at the mobile home park.

The number of dead could grow, however.

“We have two so far,” Elliot told the Los Angeles Times. “ I hope we don’t have more, but you have to see when they clear out the rubble.”

Parts of Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Arkansas braced for more tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service. Major cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, are among those in the zone with a moderate chance of tornadoes while cities as far away as Chicago face a slight chance.

“The NWS Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, is expecting a moderate risk of severe weather today,” the agency said on its website. “The area of greatest concern is from Central Missouri to North Texas. Very large hail and damaging winds will be the primary threat, but strong isolated tornadoes are also possible.”

Several tornadoes tore through central Oklahoma and Wichita, Kan., on Sunday. At least 21 injuries were reported along with the two deaths.

Hardest-hit seemed to be the region around Shawnee and the mobile home facility, some 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

Tornadoes are a common occurrence this time of the year in parts of the Midwest. Forecasters had been warning of bad weather since last week when the season got off to a painful beginning in north Texas.

By Sunday, warnings were sounded throughout the region, Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth told reporters at a broadcast news conference.

“There was a possibility a lot more people could have been injured,” Booth said. “This is the worst I've seen in Pottawatomie County in my 25 years of law enforcement.”

Gov. Mary Fallin declared an emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties because of the severe storms and flooding. The declaration lets local governments acquire goods quickly to respond to their residents' needs and puts the state in line for federal help if it becomes necessary.

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