OKLAHOMA CITY (NEWSnet/AP) — At least one death has been reported amid a severe weather outbreak that included tornadoes in the central U.S. Monday afternoon into Tuesday.

The National Weather Service had placed Oklahoma and Kansas under a rare, high-risk severe weather warning Monday. It was the first such alert this year during what has been a busy tornado season.

In face of the forecast, schools and colleges across Oklahoma, including the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Public Schools and several metro-area school districts, shut down early or canceled late afternoon and evening classes and activities. Oklahoma’s State Emergency Operations Center, which coordinates storm response from a bunker near the state Capitol, was already in active status to deal with last weekend’s storms.

As of Tuesday morning, the NWS Storm Prediction Center has 17 tornado reports from Monday under investigation.

The storms began Monday afternoon with gusty winds and rain. Then after dark, tornadoes were spotted skirting northern Oklahoma. Destructive straight-line winds moved into the Oklahoma City region, with hail reports in some locations.

Tornado watches, tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings from this storm system lasted for hours, lingering through Monday night and into early Tuesday for parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Storm Damage in Barnsdall

 

On Monday evening, a tornado emergency alert was issued for the Oklahoma tons of Bartlesville, Dewey and Barnsdall. A tornado emergency is more serious than a tornado warning, relating details of a "life threatening situation."

One person died in Barnsdall and at least one is missing, Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley said. Those listed as injured included a firefighter who was taken to a hospital with chest pains.

“There are several homes destroyed, completely leveled,” he said. “The toughest thing on me as the mayor is this is a small community. I know 75 to 80% of the people in this town.”

First responders rescued about 25 people, including children, from heavily damaged homes where buildings had collapsed on or around them, Kelley said. 

At least 30 to 40 homes in the Barnsdall area were damaged, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported, and the state Department of Health reported a nursing home was damaged and patients were being evacuated. The Barnsdall Nursing Home has since announced all residents are accounted for, with no injuries, with transfer arrangements to other facilities made.

A natural gas leak and numerous road closings due to debris also were reported, according to Osage County Emergency Management.

This was the second tornado to hit Barnsdall in five weeks - an April 1 twister damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles.

Storm Damage Elsewhere

 

Damage also was reported in Bartlesville, about 20 miles northeast.

“We did take a direct hit from a tornado” in the city, said Kary Fox of the Washington County Emergency Management. 

At the Hampton Inn in Bartlesville, several splintered 2x4s were driven into the south side of the building. Chunks of insulation, twisted metal and other debris was scattered over the hotel’s lawn, and vehicles in the parking lot were heavily damaged with smashed-out windows.

At one point in the evening, a storm in the small town of Covington had “produced tornadoes off and on for over an hour,” the NWS said. Throughout the area, wind farm turbines spun rapidly in the wind and blinding rain.

In Kansas, some areas were pelted by apple-sized hail 3 inches in diameter.

Storm damage in Oklahoma also was reported in Sulphur and Holdenville, two communities that are still recovering from a tornado that killed four and left thousands without power late last month.

Looking Ahead

 

The eastern U.S. and the South are expected to get the brunt of the bad weather through the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Specifically for Tuesday: the NWS has issued an "enhanced" risk, which is a 3 on a range of 5 categories, for severe weather in parts of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. " A few tornadoes, potentially strong, large to very large hail, and severe/damaging winds all appear possible" for the Ohio Valley, the announcement said.

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