Tornadoes cut swathes of destruction through Indian country last week and over the weekend, and on Monday May 20 the midsection of the U.S. was bracing for more.
A half-mile-wide “hurricane” that hit just outside Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon May 19 was part of the same extreme weather system, Reuters reported. The system stretched from north Texas to Minnesota, with 500,000 square miles and 55 million people in its path, CNN reported.
"You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter," the National Weather Service said in an advisory on Sunday afternoon, as reported by Reuters. "Complete destruction of neighborhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals."
The Oklahoma state health department reported at least 21 injuries, according to The Oklahoman. The main damage over the weekend leveled homes in the area of Carney, Bethel Acres and Norman, The Oklahoman reported. It overturned tractor-trailers on Interstate 40 near Shawnee and damaging roofs and trees in southeast Edmond and leveled a mobile-home park.
Paramedics searched for victims buried under houses of rubble on Sunday night, while Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 16 counties: Caddo, Cleveland, Comanche, Creek, Garfield, Grant, Greer, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Payne and Pottawatomie. Damaged communities included Bethel Acres, Carney, Edmond, Little Axe, Norman, Shawnee and Wellston.
The Red Cross has set up shelters in Carney, Shawnee and Little Axe, spokesman Ken Garcia told The Oklahoman. The storms touched down not only in Oklahoma but also in Kansas and Iowa, “part of a massive, northeastward-moving storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota,” the Associated Press reported. They came right on the heels of devastating tornadoes that hit the town of Granbury in Texas, near Fort Worth and Dallas, earlier in the week.
The weekend's system involved at least four distinct tornadoes in central Oklahoma, the AP said. The one near Shawnee destroyed most of the mobile home park.
ICTMN is still awaiting news from tribes whose members may have been in the storms’ path.