Friday, May 24, 2024

At least 4 killed in Oklahoma tornado outbreak, as threat of severe storms continues from Missouri to Texas

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Amid the deafening wails of agony that ripped through the eerie Oklahoma night, the tornadoes’ thunderous stampede cast a pall of devastation over town after town. As the inky skies erupted with nature’s furious tantrum, the tormented souls of the heartland braced for the cataclysmic onslaught of howling winds that seemed to taunt death itself.

When the grey shroud of dawn seeped through on Sunday, the full visceral horror came into focus – a swath of destruction gashing across the landscape, leaving a threnody of anguish in its wake. At least four souls, including an infant, had their fragile existences extinguished by the rampaging twisters.

In the battered town of Sulphur, some 80 miles south of Oklahoma City’s skyline, the nightmarish cyclones appeared to have reserved their most merciless fury. “It seems like every business downtown has been destroyed now here in Sulphur,” intoned a grim Governor Kevin Stitt, his words dripping with desolation’s bitter truth. “It’s definitely the most damage since I’ve been governor that I’ve seen.”

The governor’s emergency disaster declaration did little to salve the communal wounds left by a scene of apocalyptic wreckage strewn about where human life had prospered just a day before. Around 30 residents bore the tornadic storms’ brutal lashings in the form of injuries, their conditions unknown.

Sulphur’s calamity was just one brushstroke in the larger canvas of Oklahoma’s hellscape overnight. Holdenville mourned two dead, while the third life sacrifice was made near Marietta along the serpentine trail of Interstate 35 that now wears a garment of debris.

The National Weather Service’s diagnostics confirmed a macabre danse arrhythmique of 22 tornadoes suffocated the area around Norman alone under their swirling vortices of rage. Dual tornado titans, both clocking peak winds of 136 mph or higher to earn the NWS’s ominous EF-3 rating, unleashed their colossal fury directly upon Sulphur and Marietta.

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Across multiple counties, the tornadoes indiscriminately smashed homes, businesses, trees, power lines – anything and everything in their rapacious path. Floodwaters infiltrated the scarred landscape as if to compound the profound insult mother nature hurled.

“A large and extremely dangerous tornado was located south of Sulphur, moving north at 35 mph. First responders need to prepare for additional tornado impacts immediately!!!” the weather service’s Norman office had blared into the ether, its urgent warning whipped away by the relentless storms.

Footage and first-hand accounts together weave a panorama of sheer bedlam – people scrambling with panicked desperation, seeking refuge from the immortal chaos bearing down upon them. Near Oklahoma City, the University of Oklahoma’s alert cut through the aural madness with a stark directive: “Seek shelter NOW inside the building you are in. Move to lowest floor/interior room.”

Yet this hellish baptism of Oklahoma’s anguish was merely a subcircuit of a far more expansive atmospheric harrowing straddling the nation’s midsection. From eastern Texas up through Arkansas, the southern Plains states and into Missouri, nearly 47 million souls found themselves squarely within the crosshairs of an unfolding severe weather Sandy that threatened to birth more tornadoes, destructive winds, and floods.

The megacities of Dallas, Austin, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City all hunkered down against the impending onslaught as over 4 million residents fell under active tornado watches extending across Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and into Mississippi by late Sunday afternoon.

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“In addition to the severe weather, intense rainfall rates are expected to accompany these thunderstorms at times, leading to a moderate to locally high potential of flash flooding,” the National Weather Service warned, almost prophetically understating the scenes of waterlogged chaos destined to unfold.

Eastern Texas through northern Louisiana, western Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma and stretching into southwestern Missouri found themselves under the gun for the highest tornado threat, including the menace of baseball-sized hailstones to pummel and scar the land.

The multi-day spree of violence had already reaped a tragic harvest across Nebraska and Iowa just a day before. Nebraska’s Governor Jim Pillen voice quaked with incredulity that no lives were sacrificed amidst the ruinous path carved by tornadoes like the EF-3 monster packing over 150 mph winds that savaged Omaha’s Elkhorn communities. “It is a miracle there were no deaths,” he marveled.

But lady luck was not so generous to neighboring Iowa. The small town of Minden in Pottawattamie County fell victim to a gargantuan twister as the larger parent storm system roared through, leaving one fatality and over 120 homes and businesses damaged or destroyed in its wake.

As the coming week’s overture preludes more of the same volatile pattern plaguing the nation’s ajutting midsection, experts warn the curtain has just risen on what could prove an exceptionally menacing encore for tornado season’s most turbulent act.

The spring storm systems’ inevitable choreography sees chill northern air masses from the winter lockstep with warm, humid inflows from the Gulf of Mexico and tropical latitudes. This atmospheric tango spawns the fertile breeding grounds for the thunderstorms that can paradoxically beget tornadoes – both nature’s creative and destructive choreography cast across an unwitting human stage.

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The April, May and June dates on the calendar may as well be mother nature boxing up Pandora’s whirling dervishes of prairie-scorched fury. These are the months when “Tornado Alley” earns its diabolical nom de plume, the traditional peak for twister strikes across the exposed Plains and Midwestern states.

Already this year, parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have all seen a tornadic tempo run ahead of their annual averages. Illinois, too, has been forced into the storms’ crosshairs with unnatural frequency before the most tempestuous months could even arrive.

While no isolated cataclysmic event can be decisively outsourced to the metronome of climate change, a grim upward trend in the cadence and turbulence of tornado outbreaks has become increasingly glaring over the past decade as the pernicious rhythm of global warming’s escalation beats on.

The escalating numerical symphony of high-risk, high-end setups where all the necessary meteorological factors harmonize to conjure intense thunderstorms seem to be playing in ominous concert with the atmospheric melodies climate models have long been warning humanity we may one day face.

But such apocalyptic philosophical debates offer clemency neither to the fallen of Sulphur, Holdenville and Marietta, nor to the indelible scars their communities must now brace to overcome. The plaintive, mournful trill of Dixie’s blue winds has already sung its lamentations over the latest batches of tormented souls and obliterated landscapes.

How many more dark refrains from the tornado’s banshee wail must mother nature’s children in the heartland endure before the final curtain call sounds on this era’s increasingly turbulent production?



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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