Experts Check To See If Tornadoes Caused Damage In Oklahoma

(AP) Experts picked through debris and damage Thursday to determine whether tornadoes touched down after severe storms moved through the state, toppling trees and knocking out power to thousands of people.

As the storms hit Wednesday with thunderstorms, high winds, hail and heavy rain, Shaydestiny Johnson, 16, and her grandmother rushed into the bathroom in their home in suburban Bethany when they saw the balcony patio fall.

"You could feel the house shaking," Johnson said. "Pictures were falling off the wall. I was shaking."

The possible twister spun up over western Oklahoma County as severe storms moved through during the afternoon rush hour. At least one injury was reported when a woman broke her leg trying to get to a storm shelter in Bethany, authorities said.

Witnesses reported seeing two tornadoes on the ground about 5 p.m. Wednesday, said Ty Judd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"Those two reports are ones we can say with a fair amount of confidence that tornadoes did occur," Judd said Thursday. "They'll look at the damage and, based on that, they'll be able to tell how strong they were."

About 14,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm, and a fraction of those were still in the dark Thursday morning.

The storms toppled several trees in Bethany. One hit a gas meter, spewing gas into the air and forcing the evacuation of about 50 residents, said police spokesman Ali Razavi. They were allowed to return after the gas was shut off, Razavi said.

Highway motorists also spotted the possible tornadoes in Oklahoma City during rush hour.

"We've had a lot of fender benders in the metro, and I don't know if that's because folks are looking at the clouds or the rain is getting the best of them," Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Betsy Randolph said.

The storms were part of a system that moved out of the Rockies into the southern Plains. The storms followed an initial wave of severe weather that dumped more than 2 inches of rain on many parts of the state, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

"It's that time of year," Ken Gallant, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Oklahoma will get a break from the rain and wind on Thursday, but there's a chance some storms could drift out of Kansas into northern sections of the state early Friday, Gallant said. More storms are possible on Saturday.


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