Tornadoes touch down in nation’s heartland

OKLAHOMA CITY — At least three tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma, including one in Tulsa, and two more hit Arkansas on Thursday as a powerful storm system moved through the middle of the country. At least nine people were injured.

The National Weather Service confirmed at least one tornado touched down Thursday night in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. However, the tornado did not appear to be a strong twister like the deadly one in suburban Oklahoma City last week.

Meteorologist Pete Snyder with the weather service’s Tulsa office said it appeared the roofs of some buildings were damaged, and police told the Tulsa World that they didn’t have any reports of buildings being destroyed.

Earlier in the day, tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma and Arkansas, injuring at least nine people.

The National Weather Service reported two tornadoes on the ground near Perkins and Ripley in north central Oklahoma and another west of Oden, Ark.

Thursday’s tornadoes all appeared to be much less dangerous than the top-of-the-scale EF5 storm that struck Moore, Okla., on May 20 and killed 24 along its 17-mile path. The U.S. averages more than 1,200 tornadoes a year, but top-of-the-scale storms like the one in Moore — with winds over 200 mph — happen only about once per year. The tornado last week was the nation’s first EF5 since 2011.

All nine of the injured Thursday were in Arkansas; two of the injuries were attributed to a lightning strike in Rogers. Lightning was also believed to have started a fire that destroyed two floors of a condominium building in northwestern Indiana.

Some trees, homes and power lines were damaged in Arkansas, and the National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes touched down in Montgomery County and in Clark County. Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said first responders had trouble reaching a destroyed home where one person was hurt because a number of trees were blocking the road. In Oklahoma, Perkins Emergency Management Director Travis Majors said there were no injuries or damage there. Ripley, about 10 miles east of Perkins, did not seem to have significant damage.

Storms also caused problems in the western Iowa town of Onawa, damaging buildings, breaking windows, tearing awnings and blowing down trees and a stoplight. National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Fobert said the damage apparently was caused by a thunderstorm, not a tornado.

Some strong winds blew through Moore, in suburban Oklahoma City, on Thursday, but the weather didn’t cause significant problems for crews cleaning up from last week’s tornado.

Organizers pushed back Thursday’s start of the Wakarusa Music Festival north of Ozark, Ark., as threatening weather approached. After a series of storms moved through the area, Franklin County Emergency Manager Fred Mullen said no flooding was reported at the site, located along Arkansas’ Pig Trail scenic highway.

In addition to tornadoes, the storms were bringing rain and hail. Flooding was also a concern in parts of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois through Sunday.

This spring’s tornado season got a late start, with unusually cool weather keeping funnel clouds at bay until mid-May. The season usually starts in March and then ramps up for the next couple of months.

Of the 60 EF5 tornadoes since 1950, Oklahoma and Alabama have been struck the most, seven times each. More than half of these top-of-the-scale twisters have occurred in just five states: Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

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