Tornadoes sweep through Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Okla. – Severe storms and tornadoes swept through Oklahoma May 10, prompting Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry to declare a state of emergency in 56 Oklahoma counties.

The National Weather Service issued 31 tornado warnings and nine severe thunderstorm warnings that day, officials said. The agency estimates more than a dozen tornadoes crossed Oklahoma in six hours time.

Seven lives have been lost, and numerous injuries reported. Norman officials think at least two tornadoes tracked through Norman.

“Lives and property have been lost, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are suffering because of these storms,” Henry told reporters. “The response of emergency management officials and first responders has been exemplary. We are ready to do whatever it takes to help victims of these storms rebuild and recover.”

Jeff Harjo, executive director of the Norman-based Native American Journalists Association, drove past the Absentee Shawnee tribal store, clinic and casino located 15 miles east of Norman the morning of May 11.

“The convenience store is closed and the clinic is closed, and it appears the store and clinic roofs are damaged.” His calls to the tribal offices go to their answering machine.

“I have heard that houses [in the Seminole housing addition south of Seminole, Okla.] have damaged roofs. I have not been able to confirm the extent of the damage.” He said the tribal complex of the Seminole Nation, farther east of the area that was damaged is intact, as is Mekusukey Mission south of Seminole, Okla.

Emergency Management Director for the Absentee Shawnee Tribe Linda Day told volunteer agency Native Hoop May 11 the tribe currently has officers out trying to assess the damage to determine how much is needed.

Officials and Norman Emergency Management personnel are assisting Norman residents and are conducting damage assessments. Damage reports should be forwarded to NormanEOC@NormanOK.gov or call (405) 292-7008.

The American Red Cross has shelters set up, and is asking anyone who needs assistance to call (405) 321-0591.

Official damage assessments show a preliminary 40 – 50 homes have been destroyed.

Dangerous debris litters the streets. Officials ask that you stay away from damaged areas.

Power companies’ estimate 7,000 – 9,000 homes and buildings are without power. Officials are asking residents to conserve water, including a mandatory ban on outside watering and sprinklers.

The counties included in the state of emergency are: Alfalfa, Atoka, Beaver, Blaine, Bryan, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Garvin, Grady, Grant, Harper, Haskell, Hughes, Jefferson, Johnston, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Love, Marshall, Mayes, McIntosh, McClain, Murray, Muskogee, Noble, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens, Tillman, Tulsa, Washita and Woodward. Neighborhoods near Choctaw have restricted access.

Other counties may be added to the declaration as conditions warrant.

A new donation account has been set up by the Absentee Shawnee Tribe per Renee Hood director of Office of Environmental Protection. Send donations to:

ASTI

PO Box 247

Tecumseh, Okla. 74873