After 19 Tornadoes Ripped Through 4 States, Millions Are Now Under Flash Flooding Threat

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Severe thunderstorms will drench and flood parts of Oklahoma Tuesday, following on the heels of a series of tornadoes that touched down in that state and others.

At least 19 tornadoes swept through central Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas Monday carrying warnings of “considerable” damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles with the possibility of “complete destruction.”

Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas were still under a tornado watch early Tuesday, with the National Weather Service warning of “flying debris” which could be dangerous to those caught without shelter.

Wind gusts had reached 74 mph in some Oklahoma communities Tuesday morning. Storms in neighboring Texas were bringing the threat of golf ball-size hail.

Fierce thunderstorms also are expected to rattle regions from the mid-Mississippi River Valley into Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, the weather service said.

The Little Rock, Arkansas, weather service said the primary threats will be “damaging winds and a few squall-line tornadoes,” with also possible heavy rain and large hail.

Water rescues in Oklahoma

As storms drench the area, more than 50 million people will be at risk of flash flooding, hail, and damaging winds.

The weather service has issued a flash flood emergency for the Tulsa area, including Tulsa, Rogers, Mayes, Wagoner, Osage, Pawnee, and Washington counties — where up to 5 inches of rain has already fallen and another three could be possible.

The National Weather Service Tulsa urged people in those areas to move to higher ground as more heavy rainfall is expected.

“We’re seeing reports of flooding and water rescues across (northeast) Oklahoma,” state emergency management spokeswoman Keli Cain told CNN.

“Hominy (Osage County) and Broken Arrow (Wagoner County) both have significant flooding and are setting up shelters for people who have been displaced by high water; Washington County Emergency Management reports a mobile home park is flooded in Dewey,” Cain said.

The weather service’s Springfield, Missouri office has also issued a watch lasting into early Tuesday morning for severe thunderstorms in central and southern Missouri.

Wind gusts up to 75 mph, tornadoes, floods, and baseball-size hail are possible.

Streets turn into streams

Multiple Oklahoma highways are closed due to high water or storm debris. Authorities warned drivers to stay off roads in anticipation of additional flooding expected overnight.

Roads in Ponca City, in northern Oklahoma, have turned into rivers, with the local government urging drivers to stay away from the water.

The county emergency manager reported flooding in the city had begun to enter buildings, CNN affiliate KTUL reported. Several roads had also been closed off.

In Mangum, near the state’s border with Texas, city officials said a tornado hit a house and ripped the roof off a two-story apartment building, according to CNN affiliate KOCO.

The police department asked residents to “not get out and drive around.”

“On top of emergency crews trying to fix power lines and other damage from the tornado,” the department said, “the roads are now flooding due to the intense rain.”

“By trying to check out the weather you are only putting yourself and the crews in further danger.”

Stillwater Public Schools, in northern Oklahoma, announced schools in the district will be closed Tuesday “due to excessive flooding.”

Power poles, trees, roofs, barns torn up

More than 4 million people were considered to be in harm’s way early Tuesday morning from Texas to Missouri as forecasters warned of violent tornadoes, CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy said.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency management reported multiple counties have already reported damage to homes, fairgrounds, and barns. Numerous power lines and trees are down.

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