- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

LONE GROVE, Okla. | Emergency crews sorted through bricks and beams Wednesday, looking for more victims after a half-mile-wide tornado blasted through a small Oklahoma town, killing eight and seriously injuring 14.

Most of the deaths occurred in a mobile home park where deadly projectiles were hurled against people.

In one case, the wind lifted a car and dropped it onto a man.

There were also miraculous tales of survival. People taking shelter in a closet grabbed a little girl and snatched her down after the tornado blew off part of the roof and threatened to carry her away.

Three people survived the storm in a house that sustained heavy damage. Firefighters pulled them to safety in the morning.

The tornado carved a path of destruction, demolishing or damaging homes and businesses throughout Lone Grove, a town of 4,600 about 100 miles south of Oklahoma City.

Gov. Brad Henry, who arrived in the area by helicopter Tuesday, declared a state of emergency in 17 counties for the severe weather that raked the state Tuesday. The declaration allows the state to make emergency purchases to speed aid and begins a formal federal assistance process.

President Obama spoke with Mr. Henry and Sens. James M. Inhofe and Tom Coburn and “passed along his condolences and best wishes to the victims,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Most of the bodies were found in and among the wreckage of mobile homes. A trucker driving through town was killed when the winds slammed into his rig.

This was one of a cluster of unusual February twisters that touched down Tuesday in Oklahoma. A half-dozen homes and several businesses also were damaged in the central Oklahoma cities of Edmond and Oklahoma City, but no serious injuries were reported there.

Firefighters methodically searched each damaged or destroyed structure in Lone Grove. They spray-painted a large X on damaged homes after inspection and residents then were allowed to check for belongings.

Residents apparently had good warning of the approaching twister.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning, meaning a tornado is imminent and residents should take shelter, at 6:50 p.m. for Carter County. Another was issued at 7:15 p.m. when the tornado was spotted. The tornado hit Lone Grove at 7:25 p.m.

“A lot of people just didn’t leave,” Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace said.

He said the total number of injuries was 50. Sheriff’s Deputy David Gilley said 100 to 150 homes were destroyed. Authorities had not accounted for several people, but thought they had left the area or temporarily moved in with friends or family.

State Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said 30 National Guard troops came to the area to help law enforcement provide security and perimeter control.

“We will do everything we can to get Oklahomans the assistance they need,” Mr. Henry said.

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