Tornadoes Reported in Oklahoma as Severe Weather Batters Central U.S.

Severe storms were lashing the central United States early Tuesday, after a tornado destroyed parts of two communities in Oklahoma and large hail fell in Kansas. Earlier, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center issued a rare “high risk” severe storm threat for the region, warning of intense thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds that could continue all night.

At least 15 tornadoes were reported to have struck parts of the central United States by Monday evening.

Seven of the tornadoes were reported to have touched down in Oklahoma, two in Iowa, two in Kansas, two in South Dakota, one in Nebraska, and one in Tennessee, according to the Weather Service. Baseball-sized hail fell in Kansas. The extent of the damage was unclear, the service added, but more severe weather, possibly including more tornadoes, was expected.

A tornado took out about a third of the small city of Barnsdall in northeast Oklahoma, destroying or damaging buildings and injuring multiple people who were hospitalized in about 20 ambulances, said Jerry Roberts, the emergency management director in Osage County. The tornado also lifted the roof off a nursing home in Barnsdall, said Steven Cobb, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Tulsa.

As the storm bore down, the National Weather Service issued a rare tornado emergency alert, which warns of catastrophic damage and severe threat to human life, for about 30 minutes in part of Osage County and Washington County in Oklahoma.

The tornado destroyed power lines along its path, leaving entire towns without electricity, Mr. Cobb said. It touched down near Barnsdall at around 9:30 p.m. and moved northeast toward Bartlesville, until it lifted off the ground there at about 10:15 p.m., he said.

Barnsdall was also hit by a tornado last month, but Monday’s tornado appeared more powerful, estimated to be a 2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which goes from 0 to 5, Mr. Cobb said.

In Bartlesville, the worst damage was in the city’s southwest and northeast sides, said Kery Cox, the director of Washington County Emergency Management. Emergency responders rescued trapped individuals in a Hampton Inn and were recovering downed power lines early Tuesday, the city of Bartlesville said. The city said that minor injuries had been reported, without stating how many.

More than 6 million people across parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas were under tornado watches early Tuesday. At about 12:15 a.m. local time, the Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Oklahoma City and the area east of it.

“This is a particularly dangerous situation,” the National Weather Service said late Monday afternoon on social media of the tornado threat in Oklahoma. In Garfield County, Okla., severe weather destroyed some barns, felled trees and sent cars hydroplaning into ditches, but no one was injured, said Mike Honigsberg, the emergency management director for the county.

The Storm Prediction Center, which is part of the Weather Service, predicted its highest risk level for the first time since March 31, 2023. On that day, 131 tornadoes formed across 11 states from the Midwest to the South.

The last high-risk level for Oklahoma was May 20, 2019, when 35 tornadoes spawned across five states, mainly in the Plains.

Here’s what to know about the storms:

  • There is a chance for “strong to potentially long-track tornadoes, including large to giant hail, baseball-and softball-size,” according to Ms. Butler.

  • Storms in Western Oklahoma were expected to push east overnight.

  • There is some possibility of tornadoes, although less than in the high-risk area, in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas. Forecasters in Oklahoma City warned that any storm that forms could produce a dangerous tornado.

Forecasters raised the risk level Monday morning as the conditions across the Plains evolved, increasing their confidence that multiple significant tornadoes along potentially long paths will occur.

“Anybody in the affected areas should have a safety plan,” Ms. Butler said.

The Weather Service described the environment in southern Kansas and into Oklahoma as being “similar to some past higher-end, and even historic, severe weather and tornado events.”

A possible flood risk could also occur, as heavy rain increases over parts of eastern Kansas and Nebraska, as well as western Iowa and Missouri as a front moves out of the Rockies, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The Weather Prediction Center warned of a slight risk of excessive rainfall over parts of the Central Plains and Middle Mississippi Valley from Monday into Tuesday morning. The heavy rain could produce flash flooding in urban areas, roads, small streams and low-lying areas.

The severe weather risk comes a week after more than two dozen tornadoes were reported and at least five people were killed in Oklahoma and Iowa, including an infant, the authorities said.

The current threat will not end Monday. More storms are forecast for the next couple of days, primarily on Wednesday, from Texas to Ohio.

Livia Albeck-Ripka, John Yoon and Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.

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