Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

News

April 15, 2012

5 killed in Woodward, Okla., tornado

WOODWARD, Okla. — A tornado struck this small northwest Oklahoma community early Sunday, killing at least five people, injuring several others and causing extensive damage.

The twister, part of a widespread severe storm system that swept through the Midwest, touched down on the west side of town at 12:18 a.m. with only three minutes warning.

Two of the victims were identified by local authorities as children living at the destroyed Hideaway Trailer Park in this town of 12,000.

One person died at Woodward Regional Hospital.

Hospital officials said at least 30 people were treated for injuries. City Manager Alan Riffell said "about half of those are critical."

Mayor Roscoe Hill said the tornado took "us by surprise. It's kind of overwhelming."

Sixty-five years ago, one of the deadliest twisters in the nation's history struck this town, killing 116 people and leveling more than 100 square blocks.

Officials said residents had little warning late Saturday and early Sunday of the latest tornado because the storm downed power lines and disabled the town's siren system. A backup power generator was activated just before the tornado struck.

"The warning was issued at 12:16 a.m. and the tornado hit the town at 12:19 a.m.," said Riffel. "We had no time to issue a warning with any other type of system."

Riffel said fire and rescue crews scrambled immediately after the tornado touched down to help people from their damaged homes.

"We did take a direct hit, the northwest part of town received the most damage," said Riffel. "It stayed on the ground for a great distance."

Riffel added that the tornado was "limited in scope and path, but it was destructive in the areas that it hit. A number of homes were destroyed or damaged, but the mobile home park suffered the biggest brunt of the damage."

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