From the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management_A strong storm system moved across Kansas Saturday, producing strong wind shear aloft. As this system approached, tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico moved into Oklahoma. This combined with daytime heating to produce a very unstable atmosphere. Storms rapidly developed Saturday afternoon and became super cells. These storms went on to produce numerous tornadoes as they moved east at 35-45 mph.
Injuries and Fatalities
The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office reports 6 fatalities related to the tornado in Picher. Two males and four females died due to the tornado. Earlier today, seven fatalities were erroneously reported. We regret the error.
About 150 injuries reported in the Picher area.
Governor Tours Damage Area
Gov. Brad Henry today toured Picher with Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment Miles Tolbert, Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Ward and Oklahoma Adjutant General Harry M. Wyatt III. He called the damages in Picher breathtaking and profound and vowed to do everything possible to ensure that those impacted by the tornadoes receive the assistance they need to recover.
Ottawa County Emergency Management reports homes, businesses and vehicles were destroyed in a 20-square-block area at the south end of Picher. In some cases, only a home's concrete slab remains. The storm downed power lines, utility poles and trees.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) reports all areas in Picher have been cleared by search teams. Thirty-four members of Tulsa's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team worked with local responders and volunteers to search the damage area.
Today Picher residents were allowed access to their property and many began sifting through their damaged property in search of salvageable items. Residency is being verified by the address listed on their driver's license. Non-residents are not allowed entry and numerous
roving patrols are established to prevent any looting.
Pittsburg County Emergency Management reports homes were damaged in Haywood after a tornado hit in the community southwest of McAlester. A tornado was also reported near Crowder.
Additionally, a tornado was reported near Clayton in Pushmataha County.
Tomorrow, a joint federal-state damage assessment team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and OEM will join Ottawa County Emergency Management officials in conducting preliminary damage assessments (PDAs). The team will work in the Picher area to determine the unmet financial needs of those whose homes and businesses sustained damage in Saturday's tornado. The team will also be available to conduct PDAs in other areas as additional damage reports are received.
The American Red Cross continues to operate a shelter at the First Christian Church in Miami. They have served more than 500 meals. The Red Cross is also providing refreshments for rescue workers.
The Salvation Army is feeding first responders and residents in the hardest hit areas of Picher. Additionally they are providing emotional and spiritual care for those impacted by the tornadoes.
State and Local Assistance
- Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) personnel continue to provide perimeter control and other assistance in Picher. Command One, the state's mobile command unit is on site to assist response efforts.
- Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) personnel are on site assisting local response efforts.
- The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reports highways 69 and 69A remain closed in and out of Picher.
- Oklahoma National Guard personnel continue to assist OHP with perimeter control.
- Additionally, many emergency managers, fire, law enforcement and emergency medical first responders continue to assist in Picher. Jurisdictions represented include Commerce, Quapaw, Miami, Wyandotte, Fairland, Afton, Bartlesville and Cherokee.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports about 2,500 homes and businesses are without electric service due to the storms. This includes 400 Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative customers and 2,100 Empire District Electric Company customers in the Picher, Peoria and Commerce areas.
For Oklahoma residents seeking non-emergency disaster or health and human service information, please contact your local 2-1-1. Services are available 24 hours a day by dialing 2-1-1 from your home or cellular telephone.