One person was killed Wednesday and several other people were injured, at least one of them critically, when a series of “extremely dangerous” tornadoes ripped through the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area, emergency officials said.
The state Emergency Management Services Authority confirmed that one person died at a mobile home park in the town of Sand Springs. Three other people were injured, one of whom was in critical condition, it said. The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office told NBC News that the River Oaks and River West Mobile Home Park sustained “massive destruction,” with major damage to 40 to 60 homes.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the mobile home park was damaged by an actual tornado or by severe straight-line winds.
Part of a gymnasium with 60 to 70 people inside also collapsed in Sand Springs, but no injuries were reported, the emergency agency said.
Several tornadoes hit across Oklahoma, including a small one that caused minor damage in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore — where a massive tornado killed 24 people and injured more than 300 others in 2013. The first was spotted near Tulsa at 6:02 p.m. (7:02 p.m. ET), according to the National Weather Service, which called it “extremely dangerous” and bluntly warned nearby residents: You are in a life threatening situation.”
Tornado warnings continued through parts of Oklahoma late into the evening. NBC station KJRH of Tulsa reported that homes and vehicles were damaged in the nearby town of Mannford.
At least 24,000 customers were without power in Tulsa, KJRH reported. More than 16,000 customers were without power in the Oklahoma City area, where NBC station KFOR aired video of a shed that appeared to have been flattened.
The twisters were spawned by a severe weather system that also created tornadoes near Moore, Inola and Westport in Oklahoma, as well as Clifty and Berryville in Arkansas.
Interstate 35 was closed through Moore, where the National Weather Service said overturned cars were littering the freeway in both directions. Moore police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said officers were checking unconfirmed reports of minor injuries, and a hazmat team was responding to a tanker that had overturned.
“I really can’t believe it. You know, we just experienced some of this a couple of years ago,” Lewis told KFOR. “Just so soon — it’s difficult.”
The system was racing toward Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, parts of which were under severe thunderstorm watches through 3 a.m. ET. The system could spread as far south as Dallas, said Greg Forbes, a severe weather expert for The Weather Channel.
As the system moved east of Tulsa, it continued to have high potential to spin off more tornadoes, the National Weather Service said. Baseball-size hail was reported, and the agency warned that it, too, could produce significant damage.
The area is smack in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” where on average more tornadoes touch down every year than in almost any other place in the U.S.
“Man, that is a rough place to live as far as weather goes,” said Ari Sarsalari, a forecaster for The Weather Channel.