Baby among five people killed as a swarm of tornadoes hits heartland: Officials

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- At least five deaths, including one of a 4-month-old child in Oklahoma, were confirmed Sunday from a severe storm that swept through the heartland, spawning multiple tornadoes across four states, including a powerful pair of twisters that touched down in Nebraska, officials said.

Emergency officials in Hughes County, Oklahoma, said the baby was one of four people killed in storms that struck Holdenville. One person died from storm-related injuries at a sports bar in Sulphur that was hit by a tornado, officials said. At least 30 people were injured in Sulphur, including 20 who were at the sports bar, according to officials.

Oklahoma Gov. J. Kevin Stitt confirmed Sunday afternoon that at least four people were killed in the storms that slammed his state.

One person was reported dead in Marietta, Oklahoma, and two people were killed in Ada, Oklahoma, Stitt said.

A state of emergency was declared in 12 Oklahoma counties, authorities said.

Sunday night, the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, announced a preliminary determination of "at least" an EF3 tornado in Sulphur and also "at least" an EF3 in Marietta.

President Joe Biden spoke to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Sunday, according to the White House. The president offered the "full support of the federal government" after Saturday's fatal tornadoes.

Nebraska Gov. Governor Jim Pillen Sunday night issued an emergency declaration for Douglas, Lancaster and Washington Counties, making the eligible to "receive assistance funding through the state for recovery."

A man who was injured and hospitalized when a tornado hit Minden, Iowa, on Friday, has also died, his family confirmed Sunday to Omaha, Nebraska, ABC affiliate KETV.

A tornado tore through Minden in Pottawattamie County around 6 p.m. on Friday, destroying 40 to 50 homes, or about half the town, according to the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office. County officials confirmed that three people were injured in the tornado.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds toured the devastated town on Sunday and activated emergency policies.

As communities were left reeling from the devastating twisters, a new tornado watch was issued Sunday afternoon for portions of eastern Texas just as two funnel clouds were confirmed near Rosebud and Freestone, Texas, officials said. The tornado watch will be in effect until 9 p.m. CT.

Sunday marks the third day of the severe weather outbreak across the heartland states. More than 22 million people are under a threat of violent storms Sunday in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.

Holdenville, a town of about 6,000 people 77 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, was left reeling after a violent tornado touched down near the city late Saturday amid a statewide tornado outbreak.

A search for victims and an assessment of damage was launched Saturday night after storms passed through the area, Hughes County Emergency Management officials said.

A Holdenville family told Oklahoma City ABC affiliate station KOCO-TV that a relative lost their home in the storm and remained hospitalized Sunday.

At one point, crews searched the damaged Holdenville home for the child before finding the baby, who was pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the Hughes County emergency manager.

"My prayers are with those who lost loved ones as tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma last night," Gov. Stitt said in a statement Sunday. "Thank you to Oklahoma Emergency Management and those who have worked through the night to keep Oklahomans safe and have worked to clear debris and assess damage."

A destructive tornado also hit Sulfur, Oklahoma, in Murray County, destroying buildings and scattering debris for miles, authorities said. At least four other people were injured in Sulphur, including three with major injuries, officials said.

An ABC News crew in Sulphur on Sunday observed several damaged businesses, including one with a collapsed roof and others with broken windows. Several cars were seen flipped over in the downtown area.

"I never dreamed it could do this much damage," Julie Cox, a Sulphur business owner, told ABC News.

Cox's business, Pamper Me Boutique, was destroyed, and she tearfully told ABC News she let her insurance lapse due to the economy and now doesn't know how she will rebuild.

Tornadoes were reported Saturday across Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Nebraska, officials said. There were nearly 120 tornado reports in the last two days, according to the National Weather Service.

NWS teams were working Sunday to confirm the tornado reports but cautioned that the numbers are constantly being adjusted as new reports come in and duplicates are removed.

An enhanced risk for severe thunderstorms is in the outlook Sunday from eastern Texas to southern Missouri, as well as the possibility of strong tornadoes, damaging wind and large hail.

While Oklahoma was taking the brunt of the tornado outbreak, Nebraska endured the strongest tornadoes confirmed on Saturday.

Preliminary information suggests that two "strong, rare tornadoes" touched down in Douglas County, Chris Franks with the National Weather Service said during a press briefing Saturday. The NWS found evidence of EF-2 and EF-3 tornado damage there following Friday's storms, Franks said.

No fatalities have been reported so far following the Nebraska storms, officials said.

Widespread damage was reported in the Elkhorn neighborhood of Omaha, officials said. New photos emerged Sunday showing numerous destroyed homes in the area.

"For that big of a storm, to have the property damage that was so extensive, without the loss of life," Douglas County Emergency Management Director Paul Johnson said during the press briefing. "It's a tremendous attribute to the city of Omaha."

Another tornado emergency was issued Saturday for Knox City, Texas, where a large and damaging tornado was reported near the town. Baseball-sized hail was also reported with this tornadic storm, officials said.

A tornado was also confirmed Saturday near the intersection of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. The confirmed tornado was eight miles north of Robinson, Kansas.

Storms are forecast to continue Sunday across the multistate region with heavy rain expected at times.

A flood watch remains in effect Sunday for a large area in the southern Plains and Ozarks, covering portions of seven states. Flash flood warnings were issued Saturday night and into Sunday morning as many communities reported 2 to 5-plus inches of rainfall and emergency officials urged residents to avoid flooded roads.

Sunday, April 28, 2024 at 11:46PM by Bill Hutchinson and Daniel Amarante, ABC News Permalink