One of several tornadoes that touched down Sunday in Oklahoma turned homes in a trailer park near Oklahoma City into splinters and rubble and sent frightened residents along a 100-mile corridor scurrying for shelter.
The tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa were part of a massive, northeastward-moving storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota.
At least four separate tornadoes touched down in central Oklahoma late Sunday afternoon, including the one near the town of Shawnee, 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, that laid waste to much of a mobile home park.
Reports of injuries in that tornado strike couldn't immediately be confirmed, as getting into the area was made difficult by the overturned tractor-trailers that forced the closure of a section of Interstate 40.
A storm spotter told the National Weather Service that the tornado left the earth "scoured" at the mobile home park.
Forecasters had been warning for days that the weekend storm system could produce tornadoes, and emergency responders throughout the region were keeping a close eye on it Sunday night as it moved northeastward. Tornado watches or warnings were in effect through late Sunday in several states.
Dozens of homes were damaged by the other tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma, but emergency officials had no immediate reports of injuries caused by any of them, including the first of the afternoon that hit Edmond, a suburb north of Oklahoma City, before making its way toward Tulsa, 90 miles to the northeast.
"I knew it was coming," said Randy Grau, who huddled with his wife and two young sons in their Edmond home's safe room when the tornado hit. He said he peered out his window as the weather worsened and believed he saw a flock of birds heading down the street.
"Then I realized it was swirling debris. That's when we shut the door of the safe room," said Grau, adding that they remained in the room for 10 minutes.
In Wichita, Kan., a tornado touched down near Mid-Content Airport on the city's southwest side shortly before 4 p.m., knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses but bypassing the most populated areas of Kansas' biggest city.
"At this point, there are very few reports of damage and no reports of fatalities or injuries, and we're very grateful for that," said Sedgwick County Emergency Management Director Randy Duncan.
There were also two reports of tornadoes touching down in Iowa Sunday night, including one near Huxley, about 20 miles north of Des Moines, and one in Grundy County, which is northeast of Des Moines, according to The Des Moines Register. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.
In Oklahoma, aerial television news footage showed homes that appeared to have suffered significant damage northeast of Oklahoma City. Some outbuildings appeared to have been leveled, and some homes' roofs or walls had been knocked down.
"When I first drove into the neighborhood, I didn't see any major damage until I pulled into the front of my house," said Csabe Mathe, of Edmond, who found part of his neighbor's fence in his swimming pool. "My reaction was: I hope insurance pays for the cleaning."
"I typically have two trash cans, and now I have five in my driveway."
The Storm Prediction Center had been warning about severe weather in the region since Wednesday, and on Friday, it zeroed in on Sunday as the day the storm system would likely pass through.
"They've been calling for this all day," Edmond resident Anita Wright said after riding out the twister in an underground shelter. She and her husband Ed emerged from their hiding place to find uprooted trees, downed limbs and damaged gutters in their home.
In Katie Leathers' backyard, the family's trampoline was tossed through a section of fence and a giant tree uprooted.
"I saw all the trees waving, and that's when I grabbed everyone and got into two closets," Leathers said. "All these trees just snapped."
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