Tornadoes Again Threaten Oklahoma City

Several tornadoes were bearing down on the Oklahoma City area Friday night. The violent weather was occurring near the city of Moore, which lost 24 people after a massive tornado almost two weeks ago. Robert Siegel talks with Kurt Gwartney of member station KGOU in Oklahoma City.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. It has been another day of terrible tornadoes in Oklahoma. Supercells have moved across the state focusing their fury on the Oklahoma City metro area. It was just two weeks ago that another tornado devastated the city of Moore, killing 24 people.

This evening, damage reports from these latest tornadoes are beginning to trickle in. Tens of thousands of people are without power in the Oklahoma City area, and flooding is now a major concern. Gary England is a local meteorologist who's been urging people in the region to find safety.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)

GARY ENGLAND: Take your tornado precautions. This thing is absolutely horrendous. It is a threat to your life. If you possibly can, get below ground level.

SIEGEL: That's from News 9 TV in Oklahoma City. And joining us now is reporter Kurt Gwartney of member station KGOU. Kurt, you're in Oklahoma City. What's the scene like around the place?

KURT GWARTNEY, BYLINE: Well, the scene right now is it's very dark from the storm. There's water everywhere. We've seen hail, very strong winds. My family and I just left our shelter area just a few moments ago and actually have been helping one of our neighbors who is actually screaming, seeing some flooding this evening. And I'm sure as the storm moves on, we'll really be able to see what happened tonight.

SIEGEL: Now, people in Oklahoma City had some warning about the severe weather earlier today. And apparently, it was no ordinary tornado warning. What did they say?

GWARTNEY: Well, what the National Weather Service did to get our attention because, as you say, those of us in Oklahoma are used to tornado warnings, they called this tornado emergency. In other words, this is not your run-of-the-mill tornado that we experience in Oklahoma. This is a significant tornado event. That's another type of word they use often to alert us that, you know, we need to take the time to prepare now.

And I know that there were several organizations who cancelled their events for this evening in anticipation of these storms.

SIEGEL: Have residents of the Oklahoma City area or authorities there been responding differently to tonight's tornadoes because of the tornado two weeks ago that hit Moore?

GWARTNEY: Well, Oklahomans tend to remember the most recent storm regardless of when it was. And certainly, we are all remembering the tornado that hit Moore and the one that hit the Shawnee area on May 19th. And so we are - I would say, actually, I would say very easily we are hyperaware right now and everyone is truly on edge. We had three days of storms. Wednesday, we had thunderstorms. Thursday, we had a couple of tornadoes, actually, in the area. They weren't that strong and they hit in the areas that weren't that populated. And then, of course, we're seeing what's going on today.

SIEGEL: But I assume it's complicated by the fact that it's dark now in Oklahoma.

GWARTNEY: Yes. Yes, it is dark now. And we have thousands of people without electricity. And we've heard that there were some injuries on one of the highways. And we'll just have to start looking at that and, especially, when the sun comes up, we'll know a lot more.

SIEGEL: OK. Thanks a lot, Kurt. That's Kurt Galtney - excuse me - Kurt Gwartney, of member station KGOU in Oklahoma City.

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