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Oklahoma Tornado Injures 118

Tornado injures 118 in Oklahoma City area

The Boston Globe, May 9, 2003

 OKLAHOMA CITY  (AP) -- A tornado swept through Oklahoma City yesterday, flattening dozens of homes and scattering cars and mobile homes across the landscape. Strong winds also tore off roofs in eastern Kansas and might have been the cause of a train derailment there.

At least 118 people were injured in the Oklahoma City area, 20 critically, said Paul O'Leary, spokesman for the city's ambulance service. There were no immediate reports of fatalities.

The twister struck just as the afternoon rush hour was beginning, ripping roofs off homes and businesses and damaging a General Motors plant.

Truck driver David Waller was on Interstate 40 when he saw the tornado coming his way. He parked his 18-wheeler and ran for a clump of bushes. He and two other men clung to a tree as the tornado passed by.

''I'm scared to death,'' said Waller, who was shaking. His semi was picked up by the tornado and dropped on its side.

For many Oklahomans, including Governor Brad Henry, the tornado was eerily reminiscent of one that ripped through the Oklahoma City area on May 3, 1999, killing 44 people.

''Some of those very same parts were hit again today,'' Henry said. ''Nature can be cruel, but Oklahomans are a resilient people and we will face this crisis with strength and resolve.''

Tornado sirens sounded just before 5 p.m. and the twister touched down in suburban Moore 15 minutes later. Shrouded by rain, it moved over Interstate 35 and a mall before moving to the northeast and into two more suburbs, Midwest City and Del City.

''You could see birds and all kinds of stuff flying around in it,'' said Jennifer Leger, an employee at a Subway sandwich shop.

Since Sunday, tornado-packed storms have killed at least 42 people -- 18 in Missouri, 15 in Tennessee, seven in Kansas and two in Illinois. Officials have estimated damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

This story ran on page A4 of the Boston Globe on 5/9/2003.