Sunday, May 25, 2008

8 twisters: big storms, small toll

By Bryan Dean and Michael Kimball
Tornadoes destroyed a pig farm near Lacey and heavily damaged a home in southern Garfield County, officials said.

At least eight tornadoes have touched down in Kingfisher, Garfield and Noble Counties, the National Weather Service confirmed.

Chasing the storm Storm chasers share their thoughts on following Saturday's tornadoes.


Some sheds and small buildings were destroyed about three miles south of Perry, but no injuries were reported, a Noble County dispatcher said.

Some roof damage to a shed and small barn were visible just east of State Highway 86.

Storm spotters also reported tornadoes around Orlando, but officials said they had not received any reports of injuries or damage.

A “large, violent, multiple-vortex tornado” was reported about 4:40 p.m. by spotters two miles southeast of Douglas, the National Weather Service said.

That storm severely damaged a home on Bison Road a mile east of State Highway 74.

Jerry Taylor, 55, lives alone in the stone house. He said he was sitting on a hill next to his house watching the storms when he saw the tornado coming and decided to take shelter.

“I just watched it coming at me through the window, and that’s when I could see that all hell was about to break loose, so I jumped in my closet,” Taylor said.

The house was heavily damaged. A shed and stable were destroyed. Taylor said two of his five horses were missing.

An office trailer that was unoccupied was also thrown into the middle of the road at State Highway 74 and Bison Road, officials said. Power lines and trees were also down in the area.

Other tornadoes touched down near Lacey, Bison, Douglas and Orlando.

Daryl Williams, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said it’s difficult to tell exactly how many tornadoes touched down because many touched the ground only briefly before quickly dissipating.

“It’s really sketchy right now, somewhere in the area of eight or more,” Williams said. “It’s going to take some investigation by the local emergency managers and it will be a day or two until we get some real numbers.”

One of two tornadoes near Lacey destroyed several buildings at Seaboard Foods Farm No. 62, a pig farm.

John Hardaway, production manager with Seaboard Foods, said the six of the farm’s eight barns were completely destroyed and the other two were heavily damaged.

Many smaller buildings and sheds, including a water storage building, were also destroyed.

Several employees were at the farm when the tornado hit, Hennessey Fire Chief Bert Gritz said.

“There were some employees that got in the office and they were hunkered down in the showers,” Gritz said. “It blew some windows out, but they are all OK.”

The farm houses 3,900 sows and their piglets, most of which escaped unharmed, Hardaway said. The barns fell down around them, but the animals were kept in crates that generally withstood the storm.

“The crates actually protected them somewhat,” Hardaway said. “The majority will actually be fine.”

There were some pig carcasses in the area.

Hardaway said the company’s first priority is to remove debris. Construction crews were already on the site a couple of hours after the storm hit. Over the next couple of days workers will bring in water and shade until they can move the animals to another farm. Gritz and Ooten said no injuries were reported from the storm.

“There was an abandoned farm house and a barn that got hit about eight miles west and two miles north of Hennessey, but it hadn’t been lived in for several years,” Gritz said.

Damage was also reported to a grain elevator on Highway 132 in far northwest Kingfisher County, Ooten said.

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