Storm batters Elk, threatens Clinton
Clinton was in the bull’s-eye for a while Tuesday night, but a huge storm which had done major damage just minutes before at Elk City peeled off at the last second and apparently went north of town without ever touching down.
One person was killed, reportedly south of Merritt near State Highway 152. He was identified as Gene “Bo” Mikles, 53, of Merritt.
It was feared that the Tuesday storms (there were others in western Oklahoma) could be a prelude to more today and tomorrow. The National Weather Service located in Norman issued the following forecast Wednesday: “Strong to severe thunderstorms are expected to develop late Thursday afternoon across western and northwestern Oklahoma. Damaging hail, to the size of baseballs, damaging wind gusts, and tornadoes are possible.”
Information was imprecise as to how Mikles died. KFOR-TV of Oklahoma City said he reportedly had decided to leave his mobile home and seek shelter. Other reports indicated the tornado hit before he could get to his vehicle.
However, another Oklahoma City TV station, KWTV Channel 9, said he was in his car when it was thrown several hundred feet, and that his body was found lying on the ground.
Up to 50 houses may have been destroyed by Wednesday’s storm, as many as 40 of them in an area near the Elk City Country Club. Another 50 were reported to have been damaged.
Gov. Mary Fallin toured the area beginning shortly before noon Wednesday. She was accompanied by State Reps. Harold Wright of Weatherford and Todd Russ of Cordell. Before she arrived, Wright said on one of his radio stations that the normal procedure would be for her to declare the area a disaster, after which the Federal Emergency Management Agency could step in and decide what kind of monetary help would be available for victims.
Channel 9 called it an F-2 tornado, possibly F-3. At times it was reportedly a quarter-mile wide.
Television and radio stations indicated both Clinton and Weatherford were in the direct line of fire as the storm moved on from Elk City. However, neither was hit.
Clinton Fire Chief Forrest Valentine said he had three units and five personnel watching the storm as it approached. He said warning sirens here were sounded shortly before 8 p.m. “on the advice of media and some stuff we were seeing.”
However, Valentine said his men did not ever see an actual tornado but they did see a lot of “rotation.” Asked how close it got to Clinton, he said one mile west of town and two miles north of Interstate 40.
Arapaho Fire Chief Jared Howell was quoted as saying it lowered again when it crossed U.S. Highway 183 in the vicinity of Correction Line Road.
Clinton Battalion Chief Rick Challis said he never saw any hail. He was stationed near Parkersburg west of town.
Valentine said none of his people ever reported seeing hail.
At one point Channel 9 weatherman David Payne issued precise-to-the-minute forecasts of when it would hit the Clinton Water-Zoo, Clinton High School and downtown Clinton. The Water-Zoo and high school projections were exactly the same and downtown was two minutes later.
Most people watching the proceedings on television were suddenly left in the dark when electric power was lost about that same time. Mike Hixson of Public Service Company reported 30 poles had been knocked down.
Using an estimate supplied by PSO, the Clinton Daily News put out an electronic notification at 8:42 p.m. Tuesday that power was expected to be restored by 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. For many people it was, but PSO later revised its estimate to 6 a.m. And at 3:22 a.m., it did report all of Clinton back on.