Mon April 16, 2012
The Two-Way

Death Toll Reaches Six In Oklahoma Tornado

Emergency management officials in Oklahoma confirmed Monday that the number of dead had reached six for a single twister there that packed winds of 136-165 mph, according to forecasters.

Kurt Gwartney from NPR member station KGOU says officials were surveying the damage that occurred from some 120 storms over the week. The results of that survey could prompt federal assistance.

Gwartney reports:

Most of the storms raked harmlessly across isolated stretches of rural Kansas. But one 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City killed six people in the town of Woodward, and destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses.

Nearly 30 people were hurt in the storms.

The Associated Press reports "multiple outbreaks of severe weather most of Sunday from Kansas to Minnesota, were part of an exceptionally strong system tracked by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma."

The AP says in Woodward, which was the target for the deadly storm, the town's 20 outdoor tornado warning sirens were knocked out by a lightening strike:

In the end, only the Woodward tornado proved fatal. While it's unknown whether the disabled sirens contributed to the toll in Woodward, residents and officials in hard-hit areas of Kansas, Iowa and elsewhere credited days of urgent warnings from forecasters for saving lives.

UPDATE at 11:15a.m. EST:

Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center, tells NPR that the ability to put out such an advanced notice was due to a combination of factors, but primarily because the storm system's pattern was "well known as one that generates tornado activity."

Computer modeling was a big help too, Carbin says.

The weekend tornadoes in Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest were easier to predict than the one that devastated Joplin, Missouri, last May, killing 160 people. Six days ahead of the Joplin event, forecasters were pretty sure things would be bad, but because of the nature of that system, were unable to pinpoint where exactly the tornadoes would strike, Carbin says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.