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Hard-hit Oklahoma braces for tornadoes

Posted at 6:25 PM, May 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-30 18:25:20-04

By Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) — Powerful storms rolled through the south-central United States on Thursday, causing damage and injuries and threatening portions of Oklahoma that are recovering from a devastating twister that struck earlier this month.

Tornado warnings were in effect Thursday afternoon for south of Oklahoma City — including near Moore, which was hardest hit by a powerful May 20 twister — and north of the Oklahoma capital. Twenty-four people died in the earlier storm.

Shortly after 3 p.m. (4 p.m. ET), the National Weather Service tweeted that a tornado “may be developing … south of Perkins,” which is about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. Minutes later, a new message stated there had been a “brief tornado” reported that had “dissipated.”

The service tweeted about a half-hour later there was a “developing tornado near Dibble,” a community about 35 miles south of Oklahoma City. Minutes earlier, a post indicated a “dangerous tornado east of Ripley, which is 15 miles from Norman.

“Take cover if you are in the path!!” the weather service tweeted.

In addition to Oklahoma, there were also tornado warnings at one point or another Thursday afternoon in parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin, showing the breadth of this storm system. A tornado warning goes out when witnesses or radar indicate a tornado.

Tornado watches — which means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form, though one hasn’t necessarily touched down — extended through eight states Thursday. That area stretches from Texas north to Michigan and Minnesota.

With or without confirmed funnel clouds, these storms packed a wallop. The weather service’s Tulsa office, for instance, noted that one line of storms “will have the potential for wind gusts of 60 mph.”

There were official reports of at least golf-ball-size hail two miles south of Anadarko.

In the western Arkansas community of Oden, the storm caused injuries and damage, Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Goad said. Goad said that he was unsure about the nature or number of injuries, or how many structures were impacted.

People in 16 vehicles were rescued Thursday afternoon in Coffeyville after intense flooding in that southeastern Kansas community, fire department Capt. Wayne Joplin said.

Water in the streets went up to cars’ headlights, if not higher, after “torrential rain” fell on ground already saturated by storms the previous night. “The gutters and our storm system couldn’t handle it,” the captain said.

“I’ve lived here since 1979, and I’ve never seen that much rain that quick,” Joplin told CNN.

Even once night sets in Thursday, that doesn’t mean everyone can breathe easy.

The weather service’s Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a moderate chance of severe weather in parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas and Missouri on Friday.

The forecast is less dire Saturday, but on Sunday parts of the Northeast could be in danger.

The Storm Prediction Center says there is a 30% or higher probability for severe thunderstorms in parts of seven states, including the cities of Scranton, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Massachusetts; and the New York cities of Syracuse, Albany and Elmira.

CNN’s Carma Hassan and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.