A tornado ripping through the northwestern Oklahoma city of Woodward on Sunday left five people dead, 29 others injured, and dozens of homes destroyed. Three young girls are among the dead. Thirteen businesses were devastated, and some 8,000 people were without power, according to reports.
The twister struck after midnight on Saturday. It was among dozens of violent storms that struck several states in the nation's midsection over the weekend. Clean-up efforts are under way across the Midwest.
Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill told Reuters that many of the city's 12,000 residents weren't aware of the danger because storm sirens failed to sound, apparently due to the warning system being disabled by lightning.
This thing took us by surprise, Hill said. It's kind of overwhelming.
Amy Elliott of the Oklahoma medical examiner's office told the media the Woodward tornado killed three young girls and two adults. Two girls, ages 5 and 7, reportedly died along with a man who is thought to be their father in a mobile home park. The other girl, age 10, and a man perished in Tangiers, a small community outside the Woodward city limits, Reuters reported. Five of the 29 injured taken to hospitals were said to be in critical condition and moved to other hospitals.
Woodward city manager Alan Riffel reportedly told CNN that nobody is still missing.
More than 120 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska this weekend, according to ABC News. Before the outbreak got under way on Friday, National Weather Service forecasters had warned there most likely would be violent weather in the central U.S. this weekend, and they had predicted it had the potential to be life-threatening.
Officials said that at the time the twister struck Woodward its residents were already sleeping or had let down their guard because storms had passed through the area earlier.
In April 1947, a tornado struck Woodward that is still ranked as the deadliest in Oklahoma history. Reuters reported that the National Weather Service said some 116 people were killed then.
The U.S. tornado season got an early start this year, and twisters have been blamed for 62 deaths in the Midwest and South, according to reports.