Oklahoma tornadoes: 9 confirmed dead after storms
Those who lost homes in Tuesday's tornadoes picked through the remnants of their lives Wednesday as the death toll from the storms continued to climb.
Nine people have died from storm-related injuries, officials said. The search continued Wednesday for a missing 3-year-old boy in the Piedmont area whose 15-month-old brother was among the dead.
The dead include:
• Cole Hamil, 15 months, of Piedmont.
• Laron Short, 24, of Chickasha.
Three people, a man and two women, were killed along Interstate 40 two miles west of the Calumet exit in Canadian County. Nearby, a teenage girl and a 22-year-old man were killed near U.S. 66 and Courtney Road. A 63-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman were killed near Cashion in far southwest Logan County. Authorities are still trying to identify some of the victims and have not released the names of others pending the notification of their families.
National Weather Service officials said at least seven tornadoes struck Oklahoma on Tuesday, leaving paths of destruction that ranged from four to 75 miles.
Weather teams were still in the field assessing damage Wednesday, but officials said preliminary information shows four of the tornadoes will be rated at least EF3, which means they had wind speeds of at least 136 to 165 miles per hour.
- Related to this story
- Gallery: Oklahoma tornadoes: View photos of the aftermath May 25, 2011
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: 8 dead, 60 injured
- Article: Oklahoma storms: Tornado followed by flooding in Delaware County
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Damage confirmed in El Reno
- Article: Oklahoma storms: Power off in Edmond homes
- Article: Oklahoma storms: Dozens injured, thousands without power in central Oklahoma
- Article: Oklahoma storms: First Oklahoma tornadoes, now floodwater
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Edmond woman dies driving to beat tornado
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Goldsby sustains damage but has no reports of injuries
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Home shelter shields 14 from twister in Cole
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Guthrie man makes it to storm shelter just in time
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: High winds could cause flying debris from Tuesday's storms
- Article: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declares emergency in wake of storms
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Chickasha historical book found in Midwest City
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: How to help with relief efforts
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: ‘Tens of millions of dollars' in insured losses from tornadoes
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Piedmont boy, 3, still missing
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Traffic congestion added to tornado hazards
- Article: Storm tips for drivers
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Newcastle residents cope with devastation
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Trucker lives to tell tornado tale
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Calumet and El Reno area residents clean up storm debris
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Disaster relief efforts ongoing for tornado victims
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: TV stations make extensive plans for tornado coverage
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Television storm chaser loses vehicle windows
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Demand for shelters rises after storms
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Families talk about experience and plans
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Devon Energy plant idled by damage
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Thousands sought refuge in public buildings
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Body of missing Piedmont boy found in housing addition lake
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: Death toll from tornadoes rises to 10; more victims identified
- Article: Oklahoma tornadoes: NWS upgrades 3 tornadoes from EF-3 to EF-4
- Video: Oklahoma Storms: Cleanup after tornadoes hit state (2011-05-25)
- Video: Oklahoma Weather Forecast: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 (2011-05-24)
- Video: Oklahoma Storms: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 (2011-05-24)
- Video: Oklahoma tornadoes: Tornado rotation (2011-05-24)
- Video: Oklahoma Storms: Radar loop of May 24 storms (2011-05-25)
- Video: Piedmont homeowners address May 24 storm (2011-05-25)
- Video: Oklahoma tornadoes: Logan County official addresses search for missing boy (2011-05-25)
- Video: Oklahoma tornadoes: Victim finds husband's wedding ring (2011-05-25)
- Video: Chickasha tornado damage (2011-05-25)
- Video: Tornado disaster relief efforts (2011-05-25)
The number of confirmed tornadoes and EF ratings could increase as more information is gathered, officials said.
Short's aunt, Donna Gunkel, combed through the wreckage of a mobile home in Chickasha on Wednesday, searching for photographs and other mementos of her niece, who was killed when a tornado hit while she was visiting her mother.
“She was just trying to take care of her mama,” Gunkel said. “They didn't have a vehicle and no place to go. She just stepped out on the porch to see what was happening, and the trailer next door just blew on top of her.”
Gunkel said Short's family is devastated by the loss.
“She was an all-around good Christian girl. She just got home from a trip night before last. She was so happy to be home,” Gunkel said.
A tornado moved through Chickasha about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, hitting a mobile home park, an apartment complex and several businesses on the city's east side.
Aaron Bird was in an upstairs apartment with his two daughters, ages 4 and 9, when he heard the storm approach.
A neighbor began screaming at him to “bring them down here,” he said. “I thank God I chose to take my kids downstairs at the last minute, because otherwise we might have been killed or seriously injured.”
When the tornado passed, Bird stepped outside the downstairs apartment to find his unit destroyed. A baby bed hung precariously off the floor, and the walls were gone.
In Canadian County, family and friends mourned the loss of Cole Hamil, 15 months, even as they continued to search for his missing brother, Ryan, 3. Their mother, Catherine, huddled with the two boys and their older sister, Cathleen, in a bathtub as the storm hit their home near Waterloo Road and N County Line.
Both Catherine and Cathleen remained hospitalized Wednesday. The family has set up a Facebook page asking people to pray that Ryan Hamil is found safe.
Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson said searchers have not given up hope.
“Right now we're focusing on a search and rescue effort for a very frightened but a very much alive young man,” she said.
Identifying the bodies of the three motorists found near I-40 is proving difficult because the victims, who were thrown from their vehicles, did not have identifying information, Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards said.
“It will be like putting pieces of a puzzle together,” Edwards said.
A dozen or more vehicles in the area were flipped and tossed from the highway, Edwards said. Several cars were shredded, and car parts littered the highway.
Officials are also trying to identify a teenage girl who was found dead near State Highway 66 and Courtney Road, Edwards said. The girl was traveling with two others, a male and a female, who were taken to nearby medical centers, Edwards said.
The 22-year-old man later died from injuries, Edwards said.
Authorities have not released the names of a 63-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman who were killed near Cashion, nor the circumstances of their deaths.
State of emergency
Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency Wednesday for almost the entire state after tornadoes, severe storms, straight line winds and flooding caused widespread damage.
Fallin's emergency declaration covers 68 of the state's 77 counties. Fallin said tornadoes caused damage in at least 14 counties.
“We're still analyzing how many communities were hit,” Fallin said after taking an aerial tour over much of the damage.
Fallin said she received a phone call Wednesday from U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who expressed her condolences for those killed and injured by the tornadoes and offered federal support.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the state's price-gouging statute is in effect for the 68 counties in the governor's emergency declaration. The law prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services when a state of emergency has been declared.