The McClain County Emergency Management team warned on Facebook that residents in the small town of Cole, about 25 miles south of Oklahoma City, should take cover. “At 7:39 p.m. a confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado was located over Cole,” it said, adding that it was moving east at 30 miles per hour.
It added later that there had been “two fatalities” without giving details and noted that “crews are responding to reported injuries & persons entrapped within their shelters.”
Tornado watches are in place for parts of Texas, Kansas and Iowa, according to the National Weather Service as the weather shifts. “Severe storms may produce very large hail, significant damaging winds, and a few tornadoes,” it said. In Oklahoma, a few storms continue, “but the overall threat will wane over the next couple of hours.”
[12:30 AM 4/20/23] A few storms continue across eatsern OK. There remains a threat of severe wx with the cell in Okmulgee Co. for a bit longer, but the overall threat will wane over the next couple of hours. #okwx pic.twitter.com/gTbQHwnnot
— NWS Tulsa (@NWStulsa) April 20, 2023
The tornado in Oklahoma led to several roads being closed, including highways, as authorities urged people to avoid the affected areas.
Emergency crews were working to restore power, with some 20,000 people without electricity early Thursday in Oklahoma, according to PowerOutage.us, which monitors outages.
The Red Cross in Oklahoma said on Twitter it was “opening shelters for people affected by tornadoes that hit Oklahoma communities” in Shawnee, Noble and Washington — all in central Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, the University of Oklahoma warned its students and staff to take shelter and stay indoors.
“Although the tornado threat has moved east … dangerous lightning continues and scattered lightning storms with heavy rain are still in the area. Localized flooding is occurring. Do not travel!” it tweeted.
In Shawnee, Oklahoma Baptist University reported “significant” damage to its campus and said it was relocating students but added that no injuries had been reported. Classes were canceled Thursday and Friday, with power lines down and “significant” debris scattered around the city.
No injuries have been reported but damage to campus is significant. Once administration has completed its assessment we will post next steps. If you don’t live on campus please do not attempt to come on campus until we notify it’s safe to do so. We welcome your prayers.
— OBU (@obunews) April 20, 2023
While tornadoes occur all over the world, the United States experiences more than any other country — roughly 1,150 to 1,200 per year on average. Many tornadoes form in the country because its geography and climate bring together the key ingredients for spinning storms: a mix of cold, dry and warm, humid air.