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Tornado kills at least 4 in southern Oklahoma

A large, violent tornado ripped through a southern Oklahoma town, killing four people and injuring up to 50, authorities said.

world Updated: Feb 12, 2009 02:37 IST

A large, violent tornado ripped through a southern Oklahoma town, killing four people and injuring up to 50, authorities said. Severe weather also caused damage and power outages in metro Oklahoma City and western Texas. At least four people were killed and between 20 and 50 were injured by the tornado late Tuesday evening in Lone Grove, the state Department of Emergency Management said. The town of 4,600 people is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City. Damage in the town was extensive and ambulances and other first responders from communities near Lone Grove were heading there, said Amber Wilson, the emergency management director for nearby Ardmore. "Basically, all we have, it is pretty bad," said Chester Agan, assistant emergency manager for Carter County.

The National Weather Service said the tornado that hit Lone Grove was large and violent. At least two other twisters were confirmed, including one that damaged buildings in Oklahoma City and the northern suburb of Edmond.

At an Edmond business park, a body shop and the vehicles inside had been turned into a twisted ball of metal.

Shop manager Michael Jerry said he went home to eat and watch the weather reports as the storm moved into the area. "It's just surreal," Jerry said. "You just don't believe it. Especially knowing you were just there minutes before." National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith said tornadoes are most numerous in Oklahoma in the spring, but can occur at any time. The threat for twisters even extended into early Wednesday, with the weather service issuing a new tornado watch for southeastern Oklahoma and adjacent northeast Texas. In the closing minutes of the Dallas Mavericks basketball game Tuesday night, the public address announcers suggested to fans that they stay in the building while the storms were passing through the downtown area.

In northwest Oklahoma City, one wall of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant collapsed, windows were blown out, and a piece of its awning was thrown into a tree. Signs were stripped and cars were damaged in the parking lot.

At the nearby Boulder Ridge Apartments, a large section of roof was blown off one building and part of a wall was blown off another. Parked cars were shifted by the wind and smashed into each other. Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported about 9,300 customers without power, nearly 3,500 in Lone Grove, according to its Web site. Less than 1,000 Oklahoma City area customers were still in the dark. Strong winds also damaged homes elsewhere in Oklahoma and in Texas. Dust storms reduced visibility in western Texas so much that some roads were closed. Power was knocked out and minor building damage was reported.

Hamilton County authorities in north-central Texas said they had widespread power outages and downed trees, though there no immediate reports of damages to businesses or homes.

Volunteer firefighters were out checking for damage. Power outages and downed trees also were reported in nearby Bosque County.