Utility poles block part of an intersection after they were blown over in Oklahoma City, Tuesday , Feb. 10, 2009. A series of storms, with at least one tornado reported, swept through central Oklahoma Tuesday afternoon. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, David McDaniel)
OKLAHOMA CITY -- An unusual cluster of February twisters touched down across Oklahoma, ripping off roofs, littering roads with downed power lines and killing eight people in a small southern town.
Emergency responders searched into the night in the hardest-hit community of Lone Grove, where eight people died and 14 people sustained serious injuries on Tuesday, said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.
Rescuers found one woman injured but alive under an overturned mobile home, but eventually they suspended efforts until daybreak because of numerous electricity lines down.
A twister also touched down in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, where homes and businesses were damaged, but only three minor injuries were reported. A tornado also was reported in north-central Oklahoma and six homes were destroyed near the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond.
In Edmond, a body shop and the vehicles inside were twisted into a ball of metal after a tornado moved through.
"It's just surreal," shop manager Michael Jerry said. "You just don't believe it. Especially knowing you were just there minutes before. The steel girders are in a ball."
In northwest Oklahoma City, the twister apparently developed near Wiley Post Airport and then headed northeast before damaging several shopping centers and restaurants at a major intersection.
One wall of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant collapsed, windows were blown out, and a piece of the eatery's awning was thrown into a tree alongside an adjacent restaurant. Signs were stripped and cars were damaged in the parking lot.
It then moved through the Boulder Ridge Apartments, a spread of two-story units surrounding a courtyard.
"Where I'm from, we've got basements," Tiesman said. "I'm amazed that there's no basements here."
Instead, he invited his upstairs neighbors into his apartment and then used his futon mattress to barricade them into a walk-in closet. When he emerged, he couldn't believe the wreckage.
A large section of roof was blown off an apartment building and part of a wall was blown off another. One apartment had a gaping hole knocked in its side.
Parked cars were shifted by the wind and smashed into each other. A line of fencing and a light pole were knocked to the ground where the twister moved into the backyard of two neighboring homes, leaving tree limbs, children's toys and a smashed air conditioning unit strewn in its path.
Tornado sirens went off in the area to warn residents that the storm was approaching, but some were still caught off guard.
"I can't believe we didn't hear it. You know how you normally hear it coming," said Traci Keil, 37.
In between downpours of rain, some residents wandered out to snap pictures of the wreckage with their cell phones. Neighbors helped clear pieces of plywood that had blocked in some of the cars in the parking lot.
"My kids are still in the closet and won't come out," Keil said as a third wave of downpours approached the apartment complex, more than an hour after the twister hit.
Power lines littered an intersection where motorists were told to stay in their cars until crews could clear the lines.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported about 8,900 customers without power, nearly 3,500 in Lone Grove, according to its Web site. Less than 1,000 Oklahoma City area customers were still in the dark. Eighteen power poles were snapped.
The Oklahoma County Election Board was preparing to tally votes for a school board election when a large area north of the state Capitol lost power about an hour before the polls closed.
Election board secretary Doug Sanderson said without electricity, election workers couldn't count the ballots. Election materials will be locked up overnight and workers will start the process on Wednesday, Sanderson said.
Besides the tornadoes, strong straight-line winds caused damage in southern and central Oklahoma, according to state emergency management officials.
Winds of more than 60 mph caused dust storms in western Texas that reduced visibility so much some roads have been closed, the National Weather Service said.
The National Weather Service reported wind speeds reached 88 mph in parts of Texas, leaving behind downed trees and power outages late Tuesday night.
Associated Press writer Andre Coe contributed to this report in Dallas.