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Tornado causes 'significant damage' in Oklahoma, one death reported

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: One death is reported, about a dozen people are injured
  • NEW: Rescuers are trying to free people from a collapsed home
  • NEW: Damage is reported in numerous locations
  • Witnesses saw the twister on the ground

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(CNN) -- A "relatively large" tornado wreaked havoc in southeast Oklahoma, authorities said Thursday, as a wave of severe storms swept the area.

At least one person was reported killed after the tornado struck the town of Tushka, Oklahoma, according to the state Department of Emergency Management. About a dozen people were reported injured, with injuries ranging from minor to serious, said Paulette Hargis with emergency management in the city of Atoka, about five miles away.

Search and rescue personnel were trying to remove people trapped in a collapsed home in Tushka, she said. Multiple power lines were down, she said, and debris was wrapped around trees and blocking roads. U.S. Highway 69 northbound near Tushka was closed because of trees, and semitrailer rigs littering the road, said the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

The weather service received reports from media and trained storm spotters who witnessed the tornado in Tushka, about 135 miles south of Tulsa.

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The tornado was reported about three miles north of Caney, Oklahoma, near the towns of Tushka and Atoka, said Lamont Bain with the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma.

There have been reports of structural damage in the Atoka area, he said. Damage was also reported in the city of Hominy; in the Allen and Stonewall areas of Pontotoc County; and in the Madill area, the state Department of Emergency Management said.

South of Stonewall, a trailer had its roof blown off and three other homes also lost their roofs, the department said. A tree fell on a car, and softball-sized hail was reported near Hickory.

Tornado warnings were issued for locations in Kansas and Oklahoma as the system moved eastward. Tornado watches extended into northern Texas, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency was predicting a few strong tornadoes, damaging wind and hail.

Western Arkansas, southeast Kansas, extreme southwest Missouri, eastern Oklahoma and extreme northeast Texas are considered the most vulnerable regions.

This system will set the stage for severe weather over the next few days, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. Large, damaging hail up to the size of softballs also will be possible with these storms.

Storms were expected to develop along the Interstate 35 corridor in central Oklahoma and become severe. They will then move into the middle and upper Mississippi Valley, forecasters said.

The tornado threat will recede from the Plains Friday afternoon, even as it grows in the Deep South. Twisters will be a possibility across northern Mississippi and Alabama and into central Tennessee on Friday afternoon.

The storm system will press forward into Georgia and the Carolinas overnight Friday and into Saturday morning. The forecast says the primary threat there will be damaging thunderstorm winds, but there also will be the possibility of isolated tornadoes.