Governor Fallin Tours Sand Springs Tornado Aftermath

Thursday, March 26th 2015, 11:31 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency in 25 counties hit hard by tornadoes, straight line winds and flooding. They include Tulsa, Creek, Osage, Pawnee, Rogers, Wagoner, and Washington counties in our area.

3/26/2015 Related Story: Gov. Fallin Declares State Of Emergency For 25 OK Counties

The tornado moved across Sand Springs Wednesday night was rated by the National Weather Service as an EF-2 - with winds more than 110 miles an hour.

One or our storm spotters caught it on camera as it passed over Highway 51.

The NWS said it looks like the tornado was nearly a half-mile wide and was on the ground for almost ten miles, leaving damage in its wake.

Fallin wanted to see the damage first hand and toured the River Oaks Mobile Home Park, where the storm's only death occurred.

3/25/2015 Related Story: One Person Dead; 50 Mobile Homes Destroyed In Sand Springs Tornado

The mobile home park had about 80 homes in it before the storm; more than half of them now have substantial damage.

Numbers should clear up in Sand Springs as assessment teams add up their numbers Friday.

Fallin walked the streets of the mobile home park Thursday, down about the only path not covered with debris.

She credited first responders with minimizing the loss of life.

“Any loss of life is very, very tragic, but because of quick response I think we were able to help minimize that,” she said.

Many of the homes are a total loss, but most people were able to salvage something out of the debris.

3/26/2015 Related Story: Sand Springs Families Return To Damaged Homes

The survivors who saw the tornado, like April Berunem, described it as a big dark swirl.

“I looked over this way and all I could see was debris starting to fly,” Berunem said. “So I grabbed my kids, put them in the car and we took off and we made it about a block and my truck was actually lifted up and set into a driveway, and it just happened to be my husband's co-worker's, so we rode it out in their hallway.”

Just across the river, big, old trees were snapped and the sports fields were damaged at River City Park.

“Now our efforts are gonna be to clean up, it's going to be to do things as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible,” said Sand Springs Police Deputy Chief, Mike Carter.

City and State officials stressed the importance of disaster planning, including good insurance for afterward and a plan to find shelter before.

3/26/2015 Related Story: Emergency Crews Warn Oklahomans Against Sheltering In Businesses

“Know where to go, know what to do, know how to meet back up if a storm strikes and to be prepared with a plan,” Fallin said.

FEMA will have assessment teams here Friday to see if anyone qualifies for federal help.

Meanwhile, church groups are providing lots of labor to help clean-up and the Red Cross and Salvation Army are helping people with supplies.