Tornado cleanup begins, OK again hit by twisters

Residents begin "pitching in and helping out" in Holly after a tornado heavily damaged the Colorado town. In Oklahoma, meantime, tornadoes hit the state for the second time in as many days.

BY HEATHER MOYER | HOLLY, Colo. | March 30, 2007



"The general mood was one of pitching in and helping out. It was really something to see and something to witness."

—Gov. Bill Ritter


Residents began "pitching in and helping out" Thursday after a tornado heavily damaged this small rural Colorado town. In Oklahoma, meantime, tornadoes injured at least five people, two critically, and damaged or destroyed as many as 50 homes.

One woman died and eight people were hospitalized - including the victim's husband and 3-year-old daughter - after the twister hit Holly with little warning. The town is in southeastern Colorado near the Kansas border.

The tornado was one of more than 60 twisters that hit primarily rural communities in Midwestern states on Wednesday. Three other fatalities were reported, two in Oklahoma and one in Texas.

Recovery efforts were under way in Holly, with The Salvation Army sending in a mobile kitchen and Adventist Community Services setting up a command trailer to serve as a centralized emergency response post. The American Red Cross was also on the scene and opened an emergency shelter.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Holly community," said Lt. Gerald Koch, coordinator of emergency disaster services for The Salvation Army. "The Salvation Army will be in Holly providing assistance as long as we are needed."

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on the scene and representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration were scheduled to arrive Friday to also assess damages.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter toured the town and described the devastation as "numbing."

He said residents were bouncing back quickly.

"These are really hardy souls," he said. "The general mood was one of pitching in and helping out. It was really something to see and something to witness."

Residents were advised to boil drinking water as a precaution until tests could be completed on the safety of the town's water supply. Wal-Mart was shipping in a semi-truck loaded with bottled water, officials said.

The 29-year-old victim of the Holly storm died in the hospital one day after the tornado smashed her mobile home. Her daughter and husband were expected to recover.

The tornadoes which hit Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon struck near Oklahoma City. The storm downed power lines, knocking out electricity to thousands of residents.

The severe weather was forecast to continue into Friday with the potential for another active severe weather day, the Oklahoma Emergency Management Department said.

Two people died in their Elmwood, Okla., home when it was destroyed by a tornado on Wednesday. One man was also found dead near Amarillo, Texas, after a tornado hit an oil field there.

The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that 65 tornadoes touched down across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado Wednesday afternoon and evening during a large and strong storm system.

NWS officials reported that some of the tornadoes stayed on the ground for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. The Holly tornado was reported to have been 600-feet wide.

In Nebraska, officials reported tornadoes in Perkins, Cherry, Arthur and Sheridan counties. Four homes were damaged and power lines were downed. Minimal damage was reported in western Kansas as well.

Some parts of Texas saw 70 mph winds and a few isolated tornadoes, including Hemphill County. Several homes had damage and the high winds also flipped trucks on Highway 60. Several injuries were reported and some homes were damaged in the city of McLean.

Large hail and heavy rain were also reported across the region. The eastern side of the storm brought heavy snow and blizzard conditions to parts of Montana and Wyoming.


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