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Deadly tornados tore through several Oklahoma communities on May 19, 20 and 31, 2013. These are the stories of natural disaster and its aftermath, and of communities healing and recovering.

Four Tornadoes Strike Oklahoma, Including One At Riverwind Casino

National Weather Service

Four confirmed tornadoes struck Oklahoma on Saturday night, damaging a Norman casino and knocking over powerlines and trees.

An EF1 tornado hit the Riverwind Casino in Norman, where Gov. Mary Fallin was attending a Beach Boys concert. Fallin told News 9 she had to be evacuated twice, and saw torrents of rain pouring through the facility’s roof.

Riverwind Casino spokesperson Kym Koch says crews are still assessing the damage.

“Most of the damage was to the roof on the northwest corner of the casino where the food court is and the Showplace Theater is located. We also had some vehicles damaged in the parking lot in that area of the casino, and the hotel had some roof damage,” Koch said.

Koch estimates about 5,000 people were at the casino when the storm hit.

Power was knocked out at the hotel, but was restored by Sunday evening. Guests were taken to other hotels in Norman Saturday night. They were allowed to return to their rooms on Sunday to retrieve their items. As of Sunday evening, 60 of the casino’s 2,700 games were inoperable, and the casino’s restaurants are closed. The casino has called in food trucks to provide food.

No guests will be staying at the hotel until at least Tuesday.

Koch says casino crews were unable to warn patrons ahead of time because the National Weather Service did not issue a warning in advance of the tornado.

“Our crews are trained to monitor weather and to issue warning to our patrons when a warning is issued by the National Weather Service,” Koch said. “Unfortunately, in this instance, we did not get a warning and could not warn our patrons until, obviously, the tornado hit the casino.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz says the agency issued their warning at the same time the tornado hit the ground.

“This was a really quick spin-up, so there really wasn’t much there on radar to actually indicate there was actually any kind of rotation in the storm. And the tornado itself only lasted about a mile and a half, is about as far the path length is right now,” Kurtz said. “It looks like the warning was synonymous with the actual touchdown of a tornado.”

After the tornado hit the Riverwind Casino, it crossed the Canadian River and moved into southern Norman where it weakened. Kurtz says there have been reports of damage in the area.

The other confirmed tornadoes occurred in Seminole County, Tillman County and Comanche County.

No injuries have been reported.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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