TORNADOES do damage in eastern Oklahoma


Monday, May 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Strong thunderstorms spawned at least three tornadoes in eastern Oklahoma, resulting in damaged buildings, downed trees and power lines and leaving residents rattled but unhurt.

``I was scared to death,'' said 16-year-old Serena Ford, who huddled with about 30 people in a McDonald's restaurant on the Indian Nation Turnpike south of Henryetta. ``I cried. There was a lot of screaming. Everyone was scared.''

The restaurant sits at the intersection of Oklahoma 9 and the turnpike in McIntosh County. The fast-food restaurant suffered only minor damage.

The winds overturned a truck that was parked outside a nearby convenience store. The truck was carrying limbs and other debris for the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The driver was not in the truck at the time, and no one was injured.

``Everything started shaking,'' Delane Carrillo, a store clerk. ``You know how they say it sounds like a train? It really does sound just like a train.''

Three nearby Transportation Department buildings were damaged by the tornado, said Terri Angier, a department spokeswoman.

One building used to store road salts was heavily damaged. The other two buildings, both barns used to house maintenance equipment, received less damage, she said.

The tornado, reported by weather spotters to be about a quarter-mile wide at one point, formed in a storm system that moved east-northeast late in the afternoon.

Another storm spawned a tornado that knocked out electricity to Stigler in Haskell County. The state Department of Civil Emergency Management said 12 structures were damaged, including three homes, and one business was destroyed. There also was damage reported at the high school, agency spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said.

``There's damage all over the place,'' police dispatcher Jerry Tatum said.

A series of heavy thunderstorms developed throughout the afternoon and evening. The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for at least 15 counties during the afternoon and evening.

The weather service said a tornado was spotted on the ground five miles west of Pryor in Mayes County. It had lifted by the time it reached Pryor, emergency management officials said.

Elsewhere, softball-size hail was reported in Seminole County. The weather service reported flooding on Cache Creek in Cotton County and the north fork of the Red River near Headrick.

Cache Creek was expected to crest at 26.6 feet by 7 a.m. Monday. Flooding up to 6 feet is expected. Strong currents could be in the water, the weather service said.

The north fork of the Red River was expected to crest at 13 feet by 1 p.m. Monday. Flooding of fields and roads is expected.