OKLAHOMA CITY — Emergency officials set out Saturday to assess damage from a series of violent storms that killed nine people as they swept through Oklahoma City and its suburbs with tornadoes, large hail and heavy rain. More than 100 people were injured.
Muddy floodwaters stood several feet deep in the countryside surrounding the metro area. Torrential downpours followed for hours after the twisters moved east, and water damage was reported at the city’s airport. The storms battered a state still reeling after a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado ripped through suburban Moore last month, killing 24 people and decimating neighborhoods.
Water surged hood-high on many streets, snarling traffic at the worst possible time: Friday’s evening commute. Even though several businesses closed early so employees could beat the storms home, highways were clogged with motorists worried about a repeat of the chaos in Moore.
Moore, which was in the tornado warning zone, was spared major damage but experienced heavy rain and high wind. A convention center where the town held its graduation in the days after last month’s tornado suffered minor flooding damage, officials said.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said a man was missing from a vehicle near Harrah, east of Oklahoma City, and a pair of sinkholes were reported on each side of the metro area.
When a storm passed between El Reno and Yukon, it barreled down Interstate 40 for more than two miles, ripping billboards down to twisted metal frames. Debris was tangled in the median’s crossover barriers, including huge pieces of sheet metal, tree limbs, metal pipes, a giant oil drum and a stretch of chain-link fence.
The warped remains of a horse trailer lay atop a barbed-wire fence less than 50 yards from the highway.
Violent weather also moved through the St. Louis area. Early aerial images of damage showed groups of homes with porches ripped away, roofs torn off and piles of splintered wood scattered across the ground for blocks. Officials in St. Charles County reported that schools also suffered damage.
Among the nine dead in Oklahoma were a mother and a baby found in a vehicle. Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said Saturday the death toll was up to seven adults and two children. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday afternoon that 104 people were hurt.
Meteorologists had warned about particularly nasty weather Friday but said it didn’t match that of the tornado that struck Moore, though it did bring more severe flooding. About 8 inches of rain were dumped on Oklahoma City in the span of a few hours and made the tornado difficult to spot for motorists trying to beat it home.