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Violent storms spur tornado outbreak in the U.S.


Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Friday, May 31, 2013, 10:49 PM -

More than 150,000 people are without power as a string of tornadoes and violent storms move through parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois, prompting the National Weather Service to issue several tornado watches and warnings in these states.

Tornado warnings were issued in parts of Kansas as well.

Joplin, Missouri, which was hit by a devastating twister two years ago, is included in the alert.

Officials say a twister was confirmed about 6 km from the town of Moore, which was devastated by a tornado earlier this month.

Forecasters say no damages were reported near Moore.

The outbreak comes on the heels of a massive twister, 1.6 km in width, touching down in El Reno, Oklahoma, 40 km west of Oklahoma City, during the Friday evening commute.

Weather Network meteorologists Jaclyn Whittal and Mark Robinson were tracking the El Reno twister as it traveled along the I-40 -- which was promptly shut down -- west of Oklahoma City.

The tornado "formed quickly," Whittal said via phone. "We were trying to get out of the path of the tornado and we got stuck in traffic."


Numerous funnel clouds were reported in tornado alley on Friday.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 150 mm of rain fell in less than three hours time, leading to flooding in Oklahoma City.

Massive hail was reported in El Reno.

The mayor says it's not clear what kind of damage was done to El Reno because local cell phone towers were knocked out.

Mayor Matt White says he and other officials are taking shelter in a downtown basement, and he urges residents to stay in place until further notice.

Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport is being evacuated, and countless cars were seen leaving the city.

The vehicle of Weather Channel's Mike Bettes was thrown about 200 yards by the violent storm. He later tweeted that he was uninjured.

Traffic was gridlocked on the I-40 and I-45 as cars tried to avoid the path of the storms.

Numerous motorists are said to be injured and at least two people are unaccounted for. Local media is reporting five confirmed deaths, among them, a mother and her baby.


Authorities scrambled to shut down a parade in Belleville, Illinois amid reports a tornado in St. Louis tornado was taking aim at the city.



With files from CNN

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