© 2023 KGOU
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

One Dead After Oklahoma Flooding, Tornadoes; Fallin Declares State Of Emergency

Updated 12:14 p.m.: Fallin tours damage in Bridge Creek, addresses the state

Gov. Mary Fallin thanked first responders, charitable volunteers, law enforcement, and emergency workers as she met with members of the Bridge Creek Fire Department and toured damage in the area Thursday morning.

She said the state of emergency she declared Wednesday for 12 Oklahoma counties will allow counties to make emergency purchases without limitations.

“I want to remind people that we’re still at risk of having storms over the next several days, so it’s very important that you have a plan with your families, with your employees.”

Both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University hold graduations this weekend, meaning many out-of-town visitors not familiar with this type of severe weather will descend on Oklahoma.

“Be weather aware. Have a TV on, a radio on, watch social media, get an alert on your cell phone,” Fallin said.

Fallin said after the storm passed Bridge Creek, firefighters went to Newcastle and other nearby communities to help each other out before returning for the next round of storms.

“That’s the Oklahoma spirt,” Fallin said. “It makes you feel more comforted to know that people will be there in times of need, no matter what the circumstances are.”

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management director Albert Ashwood said the agency has been in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but want to let the entire storm system pass before final assessments are done, because there may be additional damage.

Updated 10:33 a.m.: National Weather Service examining damage

Survey teams from the National Weather Service will be assessing the damage from Wednesday's storms in three areas:

  • Grady County - Amber/Bridge Creek area
  • Norman area
  • Southeast Oklahoma City area

The Norman Forecast Office will release information about their assessments, possibly including an Enhanced Fujita Scale rating, once it becomes available.

Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service
National Weather Service
Preliminary damage tracks from Wednesday's severe storms.

Updated 10:01 a.m.: One person dead, governor declares state of emergency

Oklahoma City police say one person died as a result of Wednesday night's storm.

KWTV News9 reports the woman was found dead in a storm shelter on SE 164th Street just west of Midwest Blvd. They believe she drowned inside the shelter.

An Oklahoma City police officer at the scene of the storm shelter drowning on SE 164th and Midwest Blvd.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma
StateImpact Oklahoma
An Oklahoma City police officer at the scene of the storm shelter drowning on SE 164th and Midwest Blvd.

Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 12 Oklahoma counties due to the tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding Wednesday evening and early Thursday. Alfalfa, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cleveland, Dewey, Garfield, Grady, Grant, Major, McClain, and Oklahoma counties are included in the declareation, although more may be added.

The declaration starts the process of determining whether the state qualifies for federal disaster aid.

Updated 8:32 a.m.: Oklahoma City mayor tours devastation, schools closed

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett visited the site of a trailer park and a motel that were destroyed by Wednesday evening's tornado.

The Roadrunner RV park is located at just south of SE 44th Street near Interstate 35 in south Oklahoma City.

Road conditions are improving at this hour after the state was hit by floods and tornadoes yesterday. Oklahoma Highway Patrol lieutenant John Vincent told the Associated Press troopers responded to a high volume of emergency calls overnight but that there were no reports of fatalities.

He said all of the vehicles that were stranded or washed off of the road have been checked by troopers, who are back on regular patrol.

The National Weather Service says 5 to 8 inches of rain fell in the area.

The Tuttle and Bridge Creek school districts have canceled classes Thursday. In the Norman and Mid-Del districts, only individual campuses were affected. Roosevelt Elementary in Norman near the heavily-damaged intersection of 36th Ave. NW and Tecumseh Road is closed. Tinker Elementary is also shut down Thursday due to flooding.

Updated 7:29 a.m.: Red Cross shelters open in Tuttle, Oklahoma City

The American Red Cross has opened two shelters for victims of Wednesday's storms that tore through central Oklahoma. 

The Heritage Family Baptist Church at 600 North Mustang Rd. in Tuttle is the closest shelter for those affected by the Bridge Creek and Blanchard tornado.

In Oklahoma City, there's a shelter at the Santa Maria Virgen Episcopal Church at 5500 S. Western Ave. That's just north of SW 59th Street.

That shelter is bi-lingual, so they will have Spanish-speaking volunteers there for victims who live in that part of Oklahoma City with a large Hispanic population.

Oklahoma City's Animal Welfare division is working with the Red Cross to house displaced or injured pets after yesterday's storms.

Residents who need a rescue team dispatched or help locating a missing pet can call (405) 297-2255.

Updated 5:04 a.m.: Roads open, several high water rescues reported overnight

Interstates and most highways in the Oklahoma City metro are open, but drivers should be prepared for heavy congestion Thursday morning after a storm brought several tornadoes to central Oklahoma and dumped nearly seven inches of rain on the metro in less than 24 hours.

The southbound lanes of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike/Interstate 44 remain closed from the Norman Spur/State Highway 9 toward Chickasha due to an overturned semi. The northbound lanes are open. Drivers are urged to observe barricades and any city street closures, and give rescue workers, first responders, and law enforcement plenty of room as they begin to clean up and assess damage after sunrise.

About 16,000 OG&E customers were without power Thursday morning, and the utility doesn't have an estimate on how long it will be before power is restored.

Several motorists were stranded in high water Wednesday night and Thursday morning as a storm dumped nearly seven inches of rain on central Oklahoma in less than 24 hours.

Shortly before midnight, Norman Police and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol responded to a driver, passenger, and a dog trapped on the roof of a Chrysler PT Cruiser. The OHP said they were about 200 yards from the road and submerged under four feet of water on 12th Ave. NW between Tecumseh and Franklin Roads. The three were taken to Norman Regional Hospital.

In Oklahoma City, rescue workers fought through torrential rain and wind in the dark to comb through apartments, hotels and mobile home parks to search for victims of the storm. Daisy Bonilla was driving to seek shelter, but turned down a flooded side street because the interstate was shut down.

"No, didn’t make it," Bonilla told StateImpact Oklahoma's Joe Wertz. "My car shut down right in the middle, so I was like, ‘Dangit.’ I couldn’t even open my door, so my dad jumped out of my window and pushed it.”

Overflowing water rushed out of creeks and culverts, flooding roads. Streets and intersections were littered with abandoned vehicles. Under one bridge, a car chirped, beeped and flashed randomly as its battery and electrical system drowned.

Large hail stones gathered during Wednesday evening's severe storms.
Credit Tiffany Roland / Facebook
Large hail stones gathered during Wednesday evening's severe storms.

Updated 4:28 a.m.: Flash Flood Warning remains in effect until 9 a.m., dozens injured

So far no deaths have been reported after several tornadoes moved across central Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon and evening, and several inches of rain led the National Weather Service to declare a Flash Flood Emergency for the first time in the state's history.

A Flash Flood Warning remains in effect until 9 a.m. Meteorologists say it's harder to recognize the dangers of flooding when it's dark, and most flood deaths occur in vehicles.

Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman Lara O'Leary says first responders took 13 patients from a trailer park near SE 44th Street and I-35 in southeast Oklahoma City to nearby hospitals. The RV park sustained major damage.

O'Leary told The Associated Press the company has responded to water rescues "all over" the Oklahoma City metro area. She says two ambulance crews required assistance after getting stuck in high water.

The Grady County Sheriff's Office says all animals at a zoo about 25 miles southwest of Oklahoma City have been accounted for.

Alisa Voegeli, a dispatcher at the sheriff's office, says the zoo's owner and a deputy went to the scene in Tuttle to inspect the damage after a tornado hit. She says the animals are all secured.

Flooding along 36th Ave. NW and Telephone Road between Indian Hills Road and SW 34th Street at the border between Norman and Moore.
Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU
Flooding along 36th Ave. NW and Telephone Road between Indian Hills Road and SW 34th Street at the border between Norman and Moore.

Updated 10:10 p.m.: Governor Mary Fallin plans to issue a state of emergency

Governor Mary Fallin plans to issue a state of emergency for the storms that began Wednesday afternoon and have continued throughout the evening. The National Weather Service issued its first ever Flash Flood Emergency for Oklahoma City at 9:05 p.m.

The National Weather Service has never used the wording before, saying the flooding has risen to "major levels." The Norman Police Department plans to use a boat to rescue multiple vehicles stranded in high water. 

The Grady County undersheriff reports Tiger Safari in Tuttle was possibly hit, but all animals are accounted for within the enclosure. 

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are in effect for Cleveland, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie Counties until 10:45 p.m. Travel is discouraged across the metro as flooding continues. 

Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Updated 8:52 p.m.: Flash Flood Warning, Tornado Watch extended

The National Weather Service has extended a Flash Flood Warning until 3:00 a.m., and the Tornado Watch has been extended to 2 a.m.

Nearly seven inches of rain have fallen in some parts of Oklahoma in the past 24 hours, leading to significant flooding, especially in areas of Moore and Norman where the first tornado crossed the metro earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Credit Oklahoma Mesonet
Oklahoma Mesonet

Updated 8:36 p.m.: Norman police and fire crews starting cleanup, recovery efforts

Damage to the Norman Hotel (the former Holiday Inn) along the Interstate 35 service road near Robinson.
Credit Jacob McCleland / KGOU
Damage to the Norman Hotel (the former Holiday Inn) along the Interstate 35 service road near Robinson.

Norman's public works, parks, fire, and police departments are assessing damage and starting cleanup operations after a tornado moved through the area early Wednesday afternoon. Power and major transmission lines are down along Interstate 35 between Tecumseh and Franklin Roads.

The Norman Hotel (the former Holiday Inn) and the Norman Regional Healthplex sustained minor damage, but no injuries were reported. Several thousand residents remain without power, and some roof damage has been reported.

36th Ave. NW is closed between Rock Creek and Franklin Roads due to downed power lines and trees. A command center has been set up at Fire Station #8 along 36th Ave. just north of Tecumseh. All water and sewer services are operating.

Updated 8:26 p.m.: Separate Tornado Warnings issued for Oklahoma/Cleveland Counties, and Grady/McClain Counties

Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service
National Weather Service

A Tornado Warning for a storm moving along Interstate 240 has now been extended to include parts of north central Cleveland County.

A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was moving along I-240 and could affect Oklahoma City, northern Moore, Del City, Valley Brook, and Tinker Air Force Base.

The Grady County Tornado Warning was extended into McClain County until 9 p.m. as that storm slowly moves east, affecting Bridge Creek, Newcastle, and Tuttle. This storm is reportedly completely rain-wrapped.

Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Updated 8:02 p.m.: Separate Tornado Warnings issued for Oklahoma County, Grady, Canadian Counties

A Tornado Warning has been issued for Oklahoma County due to a storm passing over Will Rogers World Airport.

No aircraft are arriving or departing from Will Rogers World Airport, and officials are encouraging family members not to come to the area to pick up passengers that may have arrived before the storm. Passengers and employees have once again been evacuated to the passenger tunnel between the terminal and the parking garage.

Minutes later, the National Weather Service extended the Tornado Warning for that storm near Grady County southwest of the Metro. The warning includes portions of Canadian County.

Updated 7:27 p.m.: Tornado Warning extended until 8 p.m. for Grady County

The National Weather Service says a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Amber and moving north-northeast at 15 miles per hour. Radar indicates rotation, as well as the possibility of golf ball-sized hail.

Flying debris will also be dangerous, and mobile homes will likely be damaged or destroyed. Roof, window, vehicle, and tree damage is also likely. The storm is moving east and could enter Cleveland and McClain County, and possibly even Oklahoma County.

Lowering associated with a storm moving through Grady County shortly before 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6.
Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU
Lowering associated with a storm moving through Grady County shortly before 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6.

Updated 7:15 p.m.: Damage assessments trickling in, more storms moving through the metro

Flash flooding is now a concern for central Oklahoma residents after a storm dumped several inches of rain on the metro Wednesday evening, and brought a devastating tornado to residents of Bridge Creek, Newcastle, Norman, and Moore. A Flash Flood Warning has been issued until 9 p.m.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority says Interstate 44 is still closed between Chickasha and Newcastle. Several side streets in the area are also shut down at this hour as high water makes the roads impassable.

The American Red Cross has volunteers standing by in the state's Emergency Operations Center in Oklahoma City, and are assessing needs in tornado-affected areas. The relief organization plans to open a shelter for victims in Blanchard and Bridge Creek affected by the tornadoes.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric reports roughly 3,300 customers without power, with a majority in Norman. There are also dozens to several hundred outages in Moore, Oklahoma City, and Nichols Hills.

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings remain in effect for central Oklahoma.

Updated 7:02 p.m.: Tornado Warnings canceled for Cleveland, Lincoln, Pottawatomie and Oklahoma Counties.

The National Weather Service has canceled tornado warnings for Cleveland, Lincoln, Pottawatomie and Oklahoma Counties. 

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning continues for Canadian, Cleveland, Grady, McClain, Oklahoma, Cotton and Tillman Counties until 7:45 p.m.

Updated 6:59 p.m.: Tornado Warning for Grady, Major Counties until 7:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado near Pocasset. The storm is moving northeast at 30 mph. 

Updated at 6:46 p.m.: Tornado Warnings extended for several counties

Lincoln, Pottatawatomie, Cleveland and Oklahoma Counties are under tornado warnings until 7:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service reports a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located in southeast Oklahoma City. 

Updated at 6:39 p.m.: Tornado on the ground near Verden

The storm is expected to move northeast over the next half hour. 

Updated 6:35 p.m.: Tornado Warning for Caddo, Canadian, Grady, Blaine, Dewey and Major Counties

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Caddo, Canadian, Grady, Blaine, Dewey and Major Counties until 7:00 p.m.

A tornado has been spotted near Canton Lake moving northeast at 50 mph.  

Updated 6:18 p.m.: Tornado Warning for Cleveland, Oklahoma counties until 6:45 p.m.

Storms with rotation are forming on the east side of Interstate 35 in Moore along Southeast 19th Street.

Updated 6:15 p.m.: Severe Thunderstorm Warnings issued for multiple Oklahoma counties.

The National Weather Service in Norman has issued Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for Cleveland, Caddo, Grady, Canadian and Oklahoma Counties until 7:00 p.m. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is also in effect for Alfalfa and Grant Counties until 6:45 p.m.

Updated 6:01 p.m.: Tornado Warning for Cleveland County extended until 6:30 p.m. 

The National Weather Service in Norman confirms a large and "extremely dangerous" tornado is headed northeast at 15 mph. 

Updated 5:57 p.m.: Tornadoes in Norman

Two tornadoes have been confirmed in Norman. One was spotted near Journey Church and is moving northeast toward south Moore. 

Updated 5:38 p.m.: Tornado warning for west Moore and south Oklahoma City canceled.

A tornado warning remains in effect for Norman as a storm moves into the city. 

Updated 5:36 p.m.: Funnel developing west of Norman

Roads are being shut down across the metro as a funnel forms west of Sooner Mall. The tornado will likely be just west of the Canadian River. 

Updated 5:28 p.m.: Tornado Emergency now includes Cleveland County

The tornado emergency now includes Cleveland County, with sirens sounding in Moore and Norman. 

Updated 5:21 p.m.: Will Rogers World Airport evacuated

Passengers and employees at Will Rogers World Airport have been moved to the underground tunnel between the terminal and the parking garages.

Updated 5:04 p.m.: Tornado Emergency declared for storm moving through Bridge Creek

The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Emergency due to a life-threatening, large, rain-wrapped wedge tornado moving through McClain and Grady Counties.

The classification is higher than a Tornado Warning due to the severity of the situation. Damage has been reported on Interstate 44/the H.E. Bailey Turnpike and the Norman Spur that connects to State Highway 9. Several cars have been flipped by the storm.

Updated 4:57 p.m.: H.E. Bailey Turnpike/Interstate 44 closed

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has closed the H.E. Bailey Turnpike/Interstate 44 southbound from Oklahoma City and northbound from Chickasha as a large, rain-wrapped wedge tornado moves northeast through the area.

Updated 4:44 p.m.: Torando Warning extended to McClain County until 5:30 p.m.

A new Tornado Warning has been issued for the storm moving through central Oklahoma. McClain County is now affected as the storm approaches the Oklahoma City metro at the height of rush hour.

Travel southwest out of the Oklahoma City metro is strongly discouraged at this hour.

Updated 4:15 p.m.: Grady County Tornado Warning extended to 4:45 p.m.

The National Weather Service has extended the Tornado Warning for northeastern Grady County to 4:45 p.m. It now extends to the border with McClain County as it follows the Interstate 44/H.E. Bailey Turnpike corridor northeast toward the Norman and Moore areas.

Oklahoma City Public Schools has canceled afternoon and evening activities due to the impending severe weather threat that could arrive in the metro during the evening rush hour. Chickasha Public Schools has released students after holding them earlier as the supercell passed over the city.

Updated 3:47 p.m.: Tornado Warning extended to 4:15 p.m., schools holding students

The Tornado Warning for Grady County, including the Chickasha area and Interstate 44/the H.E. Bailey Turnpike, has been extended until 4:15 p.m.

Chickasha schools are still holding students, and several metro area school districts are starting to take precautions as severe weather is expected to move into the Oklahoma City area between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.

Oklahoma City Community College closed its campus at 3:50 p.m. Norman Public Schools have canceled evening activities.

Updated 3:11 p.m.: Tornado Watch extended, Tornado Warning issued for Caddo, Grady Counties

The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning as a twister moved through southeastern Caddo County and west central Grady County. Sirens are reportedly going off in Chickasha.

The Norman Forecast Office has extended Wednesday afternoon's Tornado Watch to include counties in the Oklahoma City metro.

Original Post

The Norman Forecast Office of the National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Watch for most of the western third of the state.

"Not everyone is going to see severe weather today. Not everyone will see a storm, even, today," said Rick Smith, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the NWS-Norman during Wednesday afternoon's severe weather briefing. "But certainly any storm that develops will have the potential to become severe. There's lots of ingredients in place over the region today to cause thunderstorms to intensify."

The watch came Wednesday afternoon and lasts until 9 p.m. The Norman Forecast Office says the Enhanced Risk area for severe weather includes Enid, the Oklahoma City metro, Woodward, Lawton, and Wichita Falls, Texas. It's possible more watches could be issued over a wider area as the day goes on.

The main impacts so far appear to be hail up to the size of baseballs, 60-70 mile-per-hour wind gusts, and possibly a few tornadoes. Locally heavy rainfall could also cause more flooding.

"Any storm that develops later today will mean business, and should be treated with a lot of respect," Smith said.

Storms that moved through the area late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning dropped several inches of rain on Central Oklahoma, washing away cars and stranding some drivers on their way to work.

Meteorologists say the chance of storms developing is low, but any that do form will likely become severe. The intensity should quickly decrease once the sun goes down and into the overnight hours.

"The main storm timing for western Oklahoma will be through 7 o'clock this evening, getting into the central Oklahoma area, Oklahoma City metro and the I-35 corridor toward rush hour - 5 to 7, 8 o'clock and maybe extending all the way to 10 o'clock or so." 

Moore Public Schools announced on social media Wednesday afternoon it was cancelling evening activities due to the possibility of severe storms.

This latest round of potential severe weather is part of an active weather pattern that should last through Sunday.


KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.