OKLAHOMA CITY — As a tornado barreled through south Oklahoma City and Moore on Wednesday evening, many residents were seeking shelter.
After the storm passed, many of those residents realized the extent of the damage done to their property and neighborhoods.
While damage and debris is usually a disheartening sight, some people are finding hope in a broken power pole. Chase Rhodes snapped a picture of power lines near 119th St. and Western Ave.
The power pole formed a cross suspended on the lines in the air.
What had been an unusually quiet storm season broke out with a vengeance Wednesday, slashing across Oklahoma and killing one person.
A reported tornado ravaged a mobile home park, destroying dozens of trailers just west of Tulsa in the suburb of Sand Springs.
“It looks like there’s been a little war zone around here,” Tammi Hart told CNN affiliate KTUL.
The storm flattened a Sand Spring gymnastics studio, where 60 kids and adults were huddled underground.
“We were just in the middle of practice and the sirens started going off and we just had to get all the kids to the basement,” according instructor Kelsey Haggard, who said she heard a “big boom” when the building was hit.
“Just really happy everyone got out safe,” said Haggard. “It was really scarey … it just seems so surreal.”
In addition to the death at the mobile home park, KTUL reported two other people were taken to the hospital in critical condition. Dozens more were injured, authorities said.
Storm damage was reported across the Tulsa metro area.
“It’s very tough conditions right now — very touch and go,” said Maj. Shannon Clark with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. “The conditions my people are working in right now are deplorable at best.”
The storm slammed into the Tulsa area after the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning.
A confirmed, “extremely dangerous” tornado was spotted near Sand Springs, moving east at 45 mph, the weather service said. The tornado warning included downtown Tulsa.
Large, damaging hail the size of baseballs and hurricane-force winds were part of the forecast.
Moore got it again
Severe weather also tore through the Oklahoma City area, including Moore, which has seen more than its share of devastating storms.
“We have about a 2-mile square area with significant damage, mainly roofs off homes and downed trees,” said Sgt. Jeremy Lewis with the Moore Police Department. “Right now, we have the area secured, we have crews in there making sure that gas lines, electrical line, all that’s turned off. ”
Trees had to be cleared so law enforcement and emergency vehicles could get through.
“You know, this isn’t the first time we’ve done this so … unfortunately, we’ve gotten pretty good at getting people back into their residences as quick as we can,” Lewis said. A massive tornado hit Moore nearly two years ago, killing 24 people and injuring hundreds of others.
“We just have to make sure that it’s safe,” he said, before letting residents return to the area.
Lewis said a temporary hospital was treating patients with minor injuries. The original Moore Medical Center was destroyed in the 2013 storm.
Staff took cover in shelters as the storm approached.
“Their building did sustain a little bit of damage, but they were able to reopen once the storm passed and start taking patients in,” Lewis said.
The city asked folks to stay away, saying they had things under control.
“Do not enter the tornado damaged area. Moore Police/Fire have not requested mutual aid,” the city of Moore tweeted. ” A call for volunteers will be made when needed.”
Moore Public Schools called off classes for Thursday.
“School has been canceled tomorrow Mar 26 due to damage across the district,” the school district tweeted. “Updates tomorrow morning – Thanks for your patience.”
Until Wednesday, there hadn’t been a single report of a tornado in the United States during March.
CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said there were preliminary reports of seven tornadoes on Wednesday. An average year would produce 80 twisters during the month, he said.
March is typically a transitional month, where warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cold Arctic air to produce severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
This year, however, the jet stream pattern responsible for all the cold air and snow in the East had remained stuck in more of a winter mode.
But that changed this week as an Arctic cold front began crashing to the south, bringing together the stormy mix.