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January 2, 2014

Devastating tornadoes named Oklahoma’s top story

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Even in a state accustomed to Mother’s Nature fury, 2013 was extraordinary.
In a two-week period in May, violent tornadoes and powerful flash flooding walloped the state, killing schoolchildren, storm chasers and Oklahomans who had huddled in convenience store coolers and underground storm drains to avoid the storms.
The one-two punch of tornadoes that struck Moore and El Reno in May — and the outpouring of support nationally and internationally — was overwhelmingly picked by Associated Press members as the story of 2013.
The full list, prepared by Oklahoma reporters who covered the state’s top stories in 2013, follows:
1. TORNADOES
One of the most powerful tornadoes to hit Oklahoma formed just southwest of Moore on May 20 and roared into the Oklahoma City suburb, killing 24 and leaving at least $2 billion in damages.
Seven pupils died when the EF-5 twister hit the Plaza Towers Elementary School. The storm hit another school, but no deaths were recorded there.
In the aftermath, a state legislator proposed a half-billion-dollar bond program to help schools build storm shelters or safe rooms. Backers fell short of the number of signatures necessary to place the issue on the state ballot but are continuing their attempts.
Less than two weeks later after the storm at Moore, a twister with the second-highest winds ever recorded near ground level hit south of El Reno, part of a thunderstorm complex that produced flash flooding and high winds that killed two dozen people in the Oklahoma City area. The El Reno storm formed on the prairie well west of Oklahoma City, giving residents advance notice of bad weather. When told to seek shelter, many ventured out and snarled roads already congested with rush hour traffic.
“They had no place to go, and that’s always a bad thing. They were essentially targets just waiting for a tornado to touch down,” state trooper Betsy Randolph said. “I’m not sure why people do that sort of stuff, but it is very dangerous.”

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