Tornado in Cole kills 3; damage reported in Shawnee and across Oklahoma

A cluster of severe storms that moved across central Oklahoma Wednesday evening produced tornadoes that damaged homes and businesses in Cole and Shawnee and left tens of thousands of residents without power.

As the sun rose Thursday, videos posted by storm chasers on Twitter showed under-construction homes near Cole that had been heavily damaged the night before.

more: See what tornadoes in Cole, Shawnee and other storms look like across Oklahoma

Damages, deaths, injuries caused by the storm are still being evaluated

Emergency responders and people impacted by Wednesday night’s storms began more closely evaluating damages early Thursday.

State Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, said three fatalities had been reported in Cole. She visited the area late Wednesday.

In Cole, a tornado damaged a wedding venue and numerous homes, some of which were still being built, as it passed through the community. It also reportedly killed three people and hurt others, an Oklahoma state senator who represented some of the hardest hit areas stated Thursday.

“It was extremely dark, but even at night I could see the scope of the devastation was shocking. I’d ask all Oklahomans to please pray for those impacted throughout the state, especially for the families of those who were killed, those injured in the storm and those who have been displaced,” Garvin said.

“But in the midst of the destruction, I witnessed the tireless efforts, not only by our first responders, but citizens within these communities as they immediately sprang into action to help each other. I was struck by how, on the anniversary of the Murrah bombing, we were seeing the Oklahoma Standard in action.”

Later Wednesday, a tornado that passed across Shawnee’s west and north sides downed power lines, damaged trees and buildings at Oklahoma Baptist University, overturned vehicles on Interstate 40 in front of Shawnee’s mall, tore part of a roof off of a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store on Kickapoo Avenue and created gas leaks from at least two businesses.

As of 6 am Thursday, 18,300 Oklahoma Gas & Electric customers were without power, the utility reported.

more: What to do if you’ve got hail or wind damage to your home or car

Emergency responders aiding those impacted by Wednesday’s tornadoes

A construction trailer at Bethel Public Schools west of Shawnee sits on its roof after being blown over in Wednesday's storms, Wednesday, April, 19, 2023.

A construction trailer at Bethel Public Schools west of Shawnee sits on its roof after being blown over in Wednesday’s storms, Wednesday, April, 19, 2023.

Oklahoma activated its State Emergency Operations Center Wednesday morning, anticipating the risk for severe weather later in the day.

There, state officials worked with local emergency management officials and various other agencies to coordinate responses as damage reports began to come in.

Late Wednesday, Benny Fulkerson, the public information officer for the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, confirmed that Pottawatomie County’s emergency management agency reported numerous tornadoes had been on the ground across its area and had requested assistance from the Oklahoma Disaster Task Force and a mobile command post from the Choctaw Nation.

more: Stormdamage? These groups offering cleanup, shelter assistance resources in Oklahoma

Fulkerson said Lincoln County sent first responders to help support search and rescue efforts there.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol sent 10 emergency response team members into Cole to assist with search and rescue efforts there. Oklahoma City and Moore also provided personnel and equipment.

Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee, urged Shawnee residents affected by Wednesday’s tornadoes and severe weather to access available local and state resources.

“The destruction suffered in Shawnee and the surrounding community on Wednesday was devastating,” Kerbs said in a statement released Thursday. “Local and state resources are available for those affected by Wednesday’s severe weather, and I hope everyone finds the support they need.”

The Red Cross was opening shelters for people affected by tornadoes at:

  • Noble High, 4601 E Etowah Road, Noble

  • Citizen Potawatomi Reunion Hall, 1702 Gordon Cooper Drive, Shawnee

  • Washington School Gym, 101 E Kerby Ave., Washington

Damage assessments in all areas were continuing, Fulkerson said.

A blown transformer burns as a broken power pole hand by the lines near Bethel Acres Wednesday night

A blown transformer burns as a broken power pole hand by the lines near Bethel Acres Wednesday night

Here’s what we know about Oklahoma tornadoes last night

Residents across the Oklahoma City area were deluged with severe weather-related warnings between 6 and 10 pm, Wednesday, including:

  • A tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service in Norman for southeastern Oklahoma, northern Cleveland and northwestern McClain counties at 6:18 pm.

  • A second warning was issued at 6:30 pm for a tornado south of Valley Brook, moving northeast toward Tinker Air Force Base.

  • A social media post from a spotter just minutes later reporting a tornado touchdown in north Norman.

  • A third warning was issued at 6:40 pm for Moore in Cleveland County, and a fourth tornado warning for a storm on the backside of that one passing over parts of Grady and McLain counties just a few minutes later.

  • Multiple additional tornado warnings issued by the weather service for the slow-moving storms over the next half hour.

  • An alert from the University of Oklahoma asking its students to shelter in place at 7:30 pm as a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado approached its campus.

  • A tornado warning issued by the weather service at 7:30 pm for Blanchard, Noble and Norman.

  • Multiple reports from spotters who saw a large, cone-shaped tornado on the ground near Cole, a community located southwest of Norman, at 7:42 pm

  • Additional tornado warnings issued by the weather service issued to warn people living in that storm’s path as it slowly tracked northeast.

  • A warning was issued by the weather service at 8:44 pm of a tornado on the ground near Etowah, a small community located southeast of Lake Thunderbird and southwest of Tecumseh.

  • A tornado warning alerting Pottawatomie County residents to take cover issued at 8:52 pm

  • Reports of a tornado approaching Bethel Acres on Shawnee’s west side just before 9:30 pm

  • A report from a spotter just before 10 pm who saw a tornado cross Interstate 40 near Shawnee’s mall.

  • A report from a spotter at 10:10 pm reporting a tornado on the ground north of Shawnee moving towards Meeker.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Cole tornado kills 3, extensive damage reported in Cole, Shawnee