Severe storms ripped through Oklahoma Panhandle

Monday, June 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A series of storms packing winds up to 85 mph rumbled through the Oklahoma Panhandle Saturday night derailing a train and causing millions of dollars of damage.

Texas County was hardest hit by the storms that brought quarter and pea-size hail and damaging winds.

Thirty-seven cars of a 107-car westbound freight train were blown off the track. The Union Pacific train, mostly hauling empty cargo containers, tumbled off the track near U.S. 54 and landed in a ravine, according to Texas County Sheriff Arnold Peoples.

Despite high winds and damaging hail, no injuries or tornado activity was reported, Peoples said.

``We had the potential for a lot of bad things to have happened,'' Peoples said. ``But fortunately we didn't have any injuries or hazardous material spills. We just got lucky.''

Rail service is expected to resume Monday, Peoples said.

High winds whipped through fields of corn and wheat, leaving twisted sprinklers and downed crops in its wake.

``It kind of wrecked us really,'' Peoples said. ``Farmers are really hurting from the damage. It's too wet to harvest the wheat and now acres of corn have been damaged.''

The storms that moved in about 9:30 Saturday night are believed to have caused about $20 million in damages, according to early estimates.

Near Straight, high winds snatched up the roofs of several homes in the town located about 20 miles north of Guymon.

Two mobile homes in Guymon were overturned by high winds.

``The people that lived there were lucky enough to get out before it hit,'' People said.

Hundreds of homes were without power after the strong winds snapped power lines. Peoples said most of the power had been restored by Sunday evening.

Flash flooding was also reported on city and county roads. Peoples said deputies rescued an elderly woman who was trapped in her car in high water.

``She was sitting there with water up to her chest and she was afraid to get out,'' Peoples said.