Skip to comments.Tornado confirmed near Sapulpa; Widespread damage in Tulsa area [Tulsa, OK]
Posted on 05/13/2010 10:54:59 AM PDT by Star Traveler
TPS, Union cancel classes
By SHANNON MUCHMORE & MATT BARNARD World Staff Writers
Published: 5/13/2010 6:23 AM
Last Modified: 5/13/2010 12:44 PM
A small tornado did touch down in Sapulpa early Thursday, while strong thunderstorms moved through the Tulsa area, felling trees and damaging homes and businesses throughout the area and knocking out power to more than 40,000 customers.
Bart Haake, Tulsa National Weather Service meteorologist, said officials determined that EF2-level damage did occur northeast of Sapulpa. Storm damage survey for the area is ongoing, he said.
Other damage ranged from building facades sheared off near 61st Street and Lewis Avenue to roofs blown off and walls collapsed as far away as Mayes County and the Port of Catoosa.
Wind gusts were measured as high as 80 mph near Bristow and radar showed wind speeds approaching 100 mph in the Tulsa area, said Karen Hatfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa.
Sirens blew across Tulsa at 4:56 a.m. They were activated as soon as officials heard that winds were expected to top 80 mph, said Mike McCool, of the Tulsa County Emergency Management office.
The worst-hit areas of the city are from 36th Street south to 101st Street and from Yale Avenue west to Riverside Avenue, said Darren Stefanek, of the citys Public Works Department.
The city has received dozens of calls about trees down and a roof in the street near 51st Street and Lewis Avenue, he said. The facade of Southern Hills shopping center near 61st Street and Lewis Avenue was ripped off.
A number of homes in the area were damaged, officials said.
City crews were working to clear arterial streets of storm damage and will start clearing residential streets, said Paul Strizek, contracts manager. Streets still closed include: 61st Street near South Lewis Avenue, 81st Street near 33rd West Avenue and South Delaware Avenue near 115th and 121st streets.
But crews will not be working overtime to clear the streets of debris unless directed to by the mayor. This means it could take up to week to clear and pick up along arterial streets, Strizek said.
We may end up with a situation where we simply clear the streets and cut up the branches and leave it in everybodys front yard, Strizek said.
In downtown, a nearly 25-foot section of scaffolding dropped from a work zone outside the BOK Tower downtown and landed on a Jeep that was parked below. No injuries were reported.
Tulsa police have been directing traffic at intersections where the traffic lights are not working, Sgt. Ron Kawano said. But the city is working to place signs at the intersections, he said.
We are giving up the traffic control to the signs once they become available, Kawano said.
Some locations where the lights are out include 61st Street from Peoria to Harvard Avenues and in the area of 46th Street and Memorial Drive as well as locations in east Tulsa. Many are in the southwest part of the city.
EMSA hasnt responded to any injuries related to the crash. Crews are going to nursing homes without power to assist people dependent on oxygen tanks, spokesman Chris Stevens said.
EMSA transported two people from Maplewood Care Center, 6202 E. 61st St., which was without power, to local hospitals in fair condition.
We treated six people, some of whom had COPD or other conditions that require oxygen, said EMSA spokesman Chris Stevens.
Were doing everything we can to basically keep these people alive, he said.
Artists who were in town for the citys annual Mayfest celebration escaped mostly unscathed because organizers had urged them to keep their wares secure, Visual Arts Chair Debby Raskin said.
A few tents blew over, but they were empty because organizers warned the artists about the weather Wednesday night, Raskin said.
Tom LaMar, 68, said he was watching television when he heard the fast winds blow through the neighborhood.
LaMar, who lives in the 6200 block of Utica Avenue, said he woke his wife and they went into their newly-installed safe room.
LaMar called these events "scary" and said he's still without electricity.
A few houses, away, a large tree fell on top of Robert Steely's jeep, damaging the hood.
"I didn't even know what happened," said Steely, 26.
He said he was also awake watching television when the power went off and that swift winds came through the front yard, tearing down parts of tree trunks.
Tulsa area schools
The weather led officials from Tulsa Public Schools and Union Public Schools to cancel classes for the day because of widespread power outages, officials said.
Eighteen schools in the Tulsa district are without power. Officials are still assessing all the damage, but the stadium lights at Memorial High School did blow over into the street, spokeswoman Tami Marler said.
McClure Elementary School, near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue, had a tree fall onto an A/C unit, causing damage to the roof and unit, she said.
Two schools in the Union district have no power, and one was difficult to get to because of downed trees in the neighborhood. Some bus drivers also had trouble getting in because of debris in the neighborhoods, spokeswoman Gretchen Haas-Bethel said.
Meanwhile, outside the Discovery School of Tulsa, dozens of parents and administrators walked among scraps of the buildings roof that were strewn across the playground.
Principal Fevzi Simsek said the charter school, near 48th Street and 72nd East Avenue, will be closed until at least Monday while administrators review damage reports and decide if the building can be reopened.
Its too early to say if students will be able to complete the few remaining days of the school year, Simsek said.
Large chunks of foam insulation and roofing material were blown nearly 100 yards away from the building and some classrooms were damaged by water. Simsek said the building remains structurally intact and he computers and other electronics are salvageable.
The privately funded school is in its first year of classes and supporters had been working hard to revamp the facility. After putting in so much effort, the storm damage became even harder to bear, parent Missy Smith said.
We just got this playground put together, and they just started putting on fencing, she said. It stinks.
The Schusterman Clinic at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa is open and seeing patients, because it has a generator.
The University of Oklahoma-Tulsa is open and finals will go ahead as scheduled, even though the university does not have power, spokeswoman Tracy Kennedy said.
Business owners and residents in Sapulpa said they knew a tornado had touched down there when they saw the damage.
The storm did extensive at Amron Enterprises on Frankoma Road near New Sapulpa Road.
Across the street, at the D.E. Holman Food Distributors, a large cinderblock building that housed part of its warehouse was toppled and a box truck was overturned. Behind the Holman company, two homes on Division Street suffered extensive roof damage and shattered windows.
Residents say a shredded tree behind the shop stood next one that wasnt damaged - a sure sign, they say, of a tornado. A crossing grate along the railroad track paralleling Frankoma Road was destroyed and crews were repairing it.
Tim Holman, a spokesman for the Holman company, said weather stormchasers were at his business earlier today and they believed an EF-2 tornado had gone through the area.
Mayes County reported wind damage and power outages countywide, said John Janzen, director of Mayes County Emergency Management.
A couple of miles south of Adair, along U.S. 69, the roof was lifted off an ATV repair home/business, Janzen said. The family, asleep at the time, was uninjured, he said.
In Coweta, at least five homes and businesses sustained roof damage, including a church, said Tom Tillotson, Cowetas director of emergency management. Much of the power in the town has been restored, he said.
A few business near Oklahoma 66 and Frankoma Road in Sapulpa received significant structural damage, and an apartment complex on the west side of town received room damage, Sapulpa Police Cpt. Joe Sellers said.
The roads are mostly clear, but many trees limbs are down throughout the city.
In Bixby, the storm knocked out power at North Elementary and the nearby 4th, 5th and 6th grade center, forcing teachers to use temporary lights in some rooms, said Bill Coyle, assistant superintendent.
Coyle said there was no damage to school buildings and that teachers and students were conducting class while PSO workers are attempting to restore power.
Many of the rooms have windows so there is some light but we are running on backup generators, Coyle said. The darkest area is the cafeteria because it has no windows.
Broken Arrow schools were open, but police have shut down Garnett Road between 91st Street and 101st Street because of downed power lines, said Broken Arrow spokeswoman Stephanie Higgins.
And, nearby, a large tree had been uprooted and partially blocked Garnett Road. Crews were using equipment to clear the road. Several homes in the area reportedly sustained damage.
Heavy winds destroyed a steel-enforced wall at factory at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and damaged more buildings at the industrial park.
Several people were working inside the Steel & Pipe Supply building when severe winds blew in the wall, but no one was injured, said David Yarbrough, deputy manager of operations for the port.
Theres a semi-trailer turned upside down and a power pole snapped in two, Yarbrough said. Whatever it was, it was bad.
Another smaller building owned by Steel & Pipe Supply was damaged, sustaining similar wind damage as the main building.
Several smaller shed-like buildings at the Port were also destroyed.
Much of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa lost power for several hours this morning, but electricity was restored around 9:30 a.m.
The Tulsa metro area now has 25,000 customers without power, said AEP-PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford.
This is down from 40,000 earlier today, he said.
The storm knocked down about 50 power line poles in Tulsa, with about 10 of those near the intersection of 101st Street and Garnett Road, AEP-PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford said.
"That's the area that we had the single-most impact on our grid," Whiteford said.
Power should be restored to 80 percent to 90 percent of the affected customers by midnight Thursday, but a few may have to wait until 6 p.m. Friday, he said.
Statewide crews and contractors are making their way to Tulsa to help local AEP-PSO employees get the power back up, he said.
The storm passed quickly through the metro area, moving at about 60 mph. It was well into Arkansas before 8 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Most of the damaged power lines are in southeast and southwest Tulsa, AEP-PSO spokeswoman Andrea Chancellor said.
Its a pretty dangerous situation out there and if anyone encounters a line thats down they need to assume its hot and energized, Chancellor said. No tornadoes were reported in Tulsa.
Forecasters said the chance of thunderstorms will continue today.
The Tulsa Red Cross will be deploying damage assessment teams to assist victims of this mornings storms.
People needing assistance from the Red Cross with shelter, or those who have damage to their homes, are encouraged to call 831-1109 so that a team can be directed to their area.
Both the Oklahoma Blood Institute and the Tulsa Area Chapter of the American Red Cross are open to donors who wish to give blood.
OBI, located at 4601 E. 81st St., lost power to its center, but a backup generator is ensuring blood products are kept at the right temperature, said spokeswoman Sara Wilson.
She said the agency has unplugged all non-essential items in support of the generator. Chris Carrier, OBI Donor Room Supervisor, said they are only collecting whole blood donations while the power is out. OBI wont be able to collected red cells, platelets and other blood parts since those donations are collected with equipment powered by electricity, he said.
And in Tulsa, the city is encouraging residents to take limbs to the greenwaste site at 10401 E. 56th St. North, which is free for Tulsans.
More without power
Three Tulsa City-County libraries are without power. They are: Herman and Kate Kaiser, 5202 South Hudson Ave.; South Broken Arrow, 3600 S. Chestnut; and Martin Regional, 2601 S. Garnett Road. No damage has been reported, according to library spokesman John Fancher.
Not a good week for OK
They’re ALWAYS too close for me! Stay safe. :)
Happened at 0500 and breaking news at 1400?
Glad you are okay!
"No pod racing today?"
Best wishes for your safety.
Prayers for your area. Stay safe!
Aw, crap. Prayers going up! Be safe, OK residents!
We’re on the phone now trying to locate our families in Tulsa. Looks like something is heading our way!
Just got in touch with the Tulsa family! They are ok now!
Thankfully, it missed us. We’re out west of Sapulpa, and all we got was wind and rain. Lots of damage in T-town though.
Couple years ago...had a twister come thru about 5 miles from me.
Rode a horse thru the damage maybe a week later.....cows dead, fences destroyed, trees ruined. Had a big heavy tri-pod deer stand disappear...never found it.
Anyhoo....glad you are well.
Woke us up about 5am. Sirens were on, which we learned are not only tornadoes, but winds over 80 mph. It passed quickly. We have power, but a friend in the southwest doesn’t. Trees down at Oral Roberts University and more so across the river.
I have a friend in Coweta. She said it sounded like a freight train going through. No damage or injuries to her family, just the trees thankfully.
I grew up in Sapulpa. It’s weird to see it in the breaking news column.
Just got back from driving around in the damaged areas from Riverside Drive (just north of 71st) where the tornado crossed the Arkansas River, going east —and we drove through the neighborhoods and across S. Peoria, about halfway between 61st and 71st, then continuing east through the neighborhoods and over to that shopping center with the roof facade which was blown off, at 61st and S Lewis. It’s across the street from the Souhern Hills Country Club...
I understand the tornado was on the ground for about 25 miles, and was moving along at about 65 MPH (of course, its own winds were higher than that). As far as I could see, it looked like the wind damage indicated a funnel that was as wide as perhaps one block wide (that would be about a 500 foot funnel (or at least for major wind damage, anyway)... and we were six blocks from its pathway ... hoo-boy! ... :-)
I only saw the pathway of the tornado from Riverside Drive, at the Arkansas River (the Eastside, going East), going over to S. Lewis and 61st, but I understand that there was more severe damage on the Westside and more homes damaged over there.
Well, that’s interesting, because it happened so fast for people (just before 5 AM) that by the time anyone took any action to secure themselves in a “safe place” in the house, it had already passed by. I guess with it moving at about 65 MPH, it was a fast moving one.
We didn’t see it or even wake up ... :-) ... but it passed by within six blocks ...
Well, it the “old days” it would be “breaking news” if you got the report six months later ... LOL ...
People are too hooked on 24-hour news, I think ... :-)
Thanks ... :-)
I guess the sirens were on city-wide (from what I hear on the news) but the tornado came from Sapulpa, crossed the Arkansas River at just north of 71st street, and you could clearly see its pathway through the trees and neighborhood where it crossed Riverside Drive, and then headed on over to 61st and S. Lewis... crossing S. Peoria somewhere half-way between 61st and 71st — and I stopped following the pathway at Southern Hills Country Club at S. Lewis... but it went on a lot further.