Small Atoka County Community Devastated By Deadly Tornado

Thursday, April 14th 2011, 9:48 pm
By: News On 6

Staff and wire reports

TUSHKA, Oklahoma -- A tornado roared through the small town of Tushka in Atoka County Thursday night, killing two people and injuring at least 15 others.

The twister destroyed a school, homes and several buildings.  The sheriff of Atoka County also reported roofs were ripped off several buildings, including the local Walmart. It ripped off roofs and shattered windows.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin had planned to tour the area on Friday afternoon, but her office released a statement saying the weather is too inclement for a helicopter trip and she has to be in her office to sign legislation by 5 p.m.

The tornado was part of an outbreak of severe weather that extended east of I-35 from Ardmore to Ponca City and caused multiple tornadoes and large hail.

The Red Cross says approximately 10 people stayed at their shelter Thursday night. The shelter at the First Baptist Church in Atoka will remain open as long as needed.

Red Cross has sent damage assessment teams to the Tushka area. The teams will work with those affected by the storms to determine their needs and how the Red Cross can help with immediate needs.

In addition, the Red Cross will have 3 emergency vehicles in the area for mobile feeding operations.

Officials are still trying to determine the extent of the damage in the town of 350 people. Those efforts have been hampered because the tornado struck after dark and downed trees and power lines made traveling difficult.

Paul Reano, CEO of Atoka County Medical Center, says the injuries ranged from cuts and scratches to more serious problems. He did not have additional details on the injuries.

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Northbound U.S. Highway 69, the main highway through the area, was closed in Tushka because semi-trailers and trees were scattered on the highway, emergency management officials said.

4/14/2011 Related Story: Multiple Tornado Warnings Issued In NE Oklahoma

Significant damage was also reported in and around Atoka.

Atoka Emergency management said residents were trapped in their homes Thursday evening.  Rescue crews were trying to reach those trapped.  Emergency management officials also said there was heavy structure damage throughout town.

The Associated Press contributed to this story