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5 dead, dozens injured as tornadoes hit Plains

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Violent storms that tore through the southern Plains killed five people and injured dozens more, leaving behind flattened homes, toppled semitrailers and downed power lines.

Several tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma and Kansas on Monday
as the storms moved through the area, dumping hail as big as baseballs and leaving thousands of people without power.

"The kids and I got in the closet and prayed," said Jamie Keyes, of Norman, an Oklahoma City suburb that is home to the University of Oklahoma. "I heard a hiss. It was like something was whistling very loud."

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jerry
Lojka said two people were killed in Oklahoma City and three were
killed in Cleveland County, south of the city. Oklahoma City officials said the fatalities there involved a young boy who was hit by debris in his home and a man whose recreational vehicle flipped over on top of him. Details on the Cleveland County deaths weren't immediately available.

Officials reported that at least 58 others were injured - two of
them critically - in a tornado outbreak that forecasters had been
predicting since last week.

In Norman - Cleveland County's largest city with about 106,000
residents - Tim Tegeler checked out the damage to his windows, air
conditioner and fence at his home. Tegeler, his wife, their
daughters and their pet fish had taken shelter in their laundry
room until the storms passed.

"We saw it coming, but the best thing is my family's fine,"
Tegeler said.

Neighbor Linda Sugg was picking up debris in her front yard.

"You could just hear stuff hitting the house," said Sugg, who
was in her home during the storms.

Near Seminole, about 60 miles east of Oklahoma City, at least
two homes were leveled after a tornado went through, Emergency
Management Director Ernie Willis said. The town's airport suffered
extensive damage and several planes there were destroyed, he said.

The weather was expected to be more settled Tuesday, said
meteorologist Ty Judd with the National Weather Service in Norman.

"There is a chance of thunderstorms later this afternoon,"
Judd said early Tuesday. "We're not looking at what we saw
yesterday."

Judd said a preliminary estimate counted 10 tornado touchdowns
in Oklahoma Monday, but that specific numbers would not be known
until investigators looked at the damage firsthand, starting later
Tuesday.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported more than 17,000 customers
remained without power Tuesday morning, down from more than 34,000 late Monday. American Electric Power reported about 1,500 outages, down from more than 2,500.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said rural
electric cooperatives had about 30,000 outages.

In Kansas, the most serious damage was reported in Belmont.
Several homes were hit in the town east of Topeka and there were
widespread power outages. But no injuries were reported.

Oklahoma City and its suburbs saw three storms develop Monday
afternoon just to the west and each caused damage as they moved
across an area home to 1.2 million people. The northern storm
caused property damage near Edmond; two storms to the south turned
into killers.

"We've had a very strange event: multiple tornadic portions
with this event as it came through," said David Barnes, the
emergency management director for Oklahoma County. "We have
multiple vehicles overturned, a housing addition has had multiple
homes destroyed."

In Alfalfa County, Sheriff Charlie Tucker said baseball-sized
hail broke the windshields of numerous cars and damaged homes.

"I came home once to look at my own personal vehicle and the
windshield was all bashed out. The grandchildren's swing set was up
and now it's gone, so there was straight-line winds that came
through," Tucker said.

The Storm Prediction Center at Norman had predicted tornadoes,
saying the atmosphere had the right mix of winds, heat and
moisture. One twister touched down just east of the center's
building on the University of Oklahoma campus.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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