Severe thunderstorms hit parts of Oklahoma, Texas

A tornado in Oklahoma in the United States on Monday. The massive outbreak of tornadoes that was forecast did not materialise, but the storm system still managed to damage homes and close a stretch of the Interstate 40 highway in Oklahoma under flood
A tornado in Oklahoma in the United States on Monday. The massive outbreak of tornadoes that was forecast did not materialise, but the storm system still managed to damage homes and close a stretch of the Interstate 40 highway in Oklahoma under flood waters. The heavy rain, high winds and hail that swept across the southern Great Plains are now headed to Arkansas and Missouri.PHOTO: REUTERS

HOUSTON/LITTLE ROCK • Severe thunderstorms struck parts of Texas and Oklahoma in the United States earlier this week, producing short-lived tornadoes - including stunning side-by-side twisters in rural Oklahoma - but as of yesterday the region appeared to have been largely spared from violent weather that had been feared by forecasters.

The heavy rain, high winds and hail that swept across the southern Great Plains are now headed to Arkansas and Missouri, where farmers are already struggling to get crops in the ground in a brutally wet spring.

The massive outbreak of tornadoes forecast on Monday did not materialise, but the system still managed to damage homes and close a stretch of the Interstate 40 highway in Oklahoma under flood waters. There were no reported deaths.

The warning issued by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Centre (SPC) in Norman, Oklahoma, had predicted a "major severe weather outbreak" on Monday over parts of north-west Texas and western and central Oklahoma, including a series of "potentially long-track and violent" tornadoes.

By early Monday evening, scattered tornadoes briefly touched down in largely rural areas in south-west and north-central Oklahoma, causing some damage but no reported injuries or fatalities.

The concern became severe flooding, as a long line of sluggish storms moved east across the state and dumped heavy rainfall.

In the north-central part of the state, local television crews captured images of two twin tornadoes in a rural region near the small town of Crescent. In the south-western corner of the state near the Texas border, a tornado appeared to strike some homes near Mangum, a town of 3,000 more than 240km from Oklahoma City.

As part of its warning issued earlier on Monday, the SPC took the rare step of announcing a "high risk" zone for potentially catastrophic tornadoes, the first time in two years it had designated such an area.

Numerous cities and towns were placed in the zone, including the Texas towns of Childress, Haskell and Snyder, as well as Oklahoma City, Norman, Lawton and Moore in Oklahoma.

The timing of the warning was particularly ominous for residents of Moore, a suburb just south of Oklahoma City: Monday was the six-year anniversary of a deadly tornado that struck the town. In 2013, a tornado devastated Moore, destroying an elementary school and killing several pupils inside.

"You don't ever forget it," said state representative Mark McBride, whose district includes the town. "I think in my legislative district, I lost 1,100 homes - just totally wiped out. My parents lost their home. We built back. My parents built back. We're a pretty tough bunch."

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2019, with the headline 'Severe thunderstorms hit parts of Oklahoma, Texas'. Print Edition | Subscribe