Oklahoma tornado kills 3; A state of emergency was declared amid the damage

SULFUR, Okla. (AP) — A tornado that tore through Oklahoma leveled buildings in a rural town, killing at least four people, causing widespread power outages and leaving a trail of destruction, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Sunday.

Nearly 30,000 people were without power after the storm started Saturday night. The damage was extensive in Sulphur, home to about 5,000 people, where some downtown buildings collapsed and roofs were sheared off homes in a 15-block radius.

“You can't believe the destruction,” Stitt said. “Every trading town seems to have been destroyed.”

Stitt said about 30 people were injured in Sulfur alone. Devastation has been reported from dozens of tornadoes Mid country from FridaySunday with flood watches and warnings for Oklahoma and other states — including Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas.

In Oklahoma, a tornado ripped through Holdenville, a town of about 5,000, late Saturday, killing two people and injuring four others, Hughes County Emergency Medical Services said in a statement Sunday. Another person was killed on Interstate 35 near the southern Oklahoma city of Marietta, Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

In Holdenville, a community about 80 miles (129 kilometers) from Oklahoma City, homes were demolished and road signs were bent to the ground. The sound of chainsaws could be heard in the distance as workers began to deal with the damage.

“My prayers are with those who lost loved ones in last night's tornadoes in Oklahoma,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement.

He issued an executive order on Sunday declaring a state of emergency in 12 counties due to severe weather, as crews worked to clear debris and assess damage from severe storms that brought down power lines. Later in the day, he planned to visit the southern Oklahoma city of Sulphur, where some buildings had been reduced to piles of rubble.

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More than 30,000 customers were without power in Oklahoma as of noon Sunday power cut. us, which monitors power utility outages. In Texas, nearly 52,000 customers were without power.

In Sulphur, officials said the tornado started in a city park before moving through Sulphur's downtown area, causing significant destruction and unspecified injuries. A search and rescue operation is underway, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

A man is surrounded by tornado damage after severe storms moved through Sulphur, Okla., Sunday, April 28, 2024. (AP via Brian Terry/The Oklahoman)

Photos from local news media showed several ground-level buildings and roofs ripped off houses. The Murray County Sheriff's Office urged people to stay away from the city to clear the way for first responders following major damage caused by the tornado, according to a statement posted by the agency on Facebook.

“Stay home, don't visit,” the sheriff's office said.

A hospital in Marietta was damaged, according to the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management, and I-35 on the Texas border was closed “due to overturned vehicles and power lines across the highway.”

Residents of other states also dug in Storm damage. A tornado in the suburbs Omaha, Nebraska, Saturday, demolishing homes and businesses, it moved for miles through farmland and subdivisions before hitting an Iowa town.

Fewer than two dozen people have been treated at Omaha-area hospitals, said Dr. Lindsay Huse, health director of the city's Douglas County Health Department.

“Amazing,” she said, stressing that none of the city's injuries were serious. Neighboring communities each reported a few injuries.

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Tornado damage began Friday afternoon near Lincoln, Nebraska. An industrial building in Lancaster County was hit, collapsing with 70 people. Several people were trapped, but all were evacuated, and all three injuries were not life-threatening, officials said.

People look at tornado damage after severe storms hit Sulphur, Okla., Sunday, April 28, 2024.  (AP via Brian Terry/The Oklahoman)

People look at tornado damage after a severe storm hit Sulphur, Okla., Sunday, April 28, 2024. (AP via Brian Terry/The Oklahoman)

Charlie Schweck walks past his property in Sulphur, Okla., after a tornado hit Sulphur, Okla., Sunday, April 28, 2024.  (Brian Terry/The Oklahoman via AP)

Charlie Schweck walks past his property in Sulphur, Okla., after a tornado hit Sulphur, Okla., Sunday, April 28, 2024. (Brian Terry/The Oklahoman via AP)

One or two tornadoes then crept toward Omaha, with winds of 135 to 165 mph, leaving damage consistent with an EF3 twister, said Chris Franks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Omaha office.

The twister eventually hit the Elkhorn neighborhood of west Omaha, home to 485,000 people, a metropolitan area population of about 1 million.

Stacey Roe surveyed the damage to what was said to be her “forever home” that wasn't even two years old. When the typhoon hit, they were picking up a friend who had to spend the night at the airport.

“There was no home to come to,” she said, describing the first time she saw it as “absolutely terrifying.”

Nebraska Gov. Jim Billon and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds toured the damage Saturday and organized aid efforts for damaged communities. Formal damage assessments are still underway, but states plan to seek federal assistance.

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Associated Press reporters Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, and Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.

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