Cleanup in Seminole after tornado damages downtown, schools and residential areas – FOX23 News
SEMINOLE, Okla. – FOX23 News sent a team to Seminole to speak with residents, state and city leaders about the cleanup taking place a day after a tornado caused extensive damage to downtown and some surrounding neighborhoods. The Seminole tornado will be rated at least EF2.
JT Palmer, an investigator with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, said the tornado touched down around 6:45 p.m. in Maud, Okla. and moved northeast to the town of Seminole, Okla., causing extensive damage.
He said a secondary storm kicked in around 8:30 p.m. causing damage west and east of Seminole to Cromwell, Okla.
Palmer said more than 100 homes and businesses were damaged in Seminole County. However, there were no serious injuries or fatalities. He said almost every business suffered damage downtown.
Winds tore off much of the roof of a downtown residential building, now part of the roof hangs over the sidewalk at the front of the building.
>>> MORE: VIDEO: Governor Stitt reviews tornado damage in Seminole
City manager Steve Saxon hopes the recovery will only be a matter of days, not months. When FOX23 spoke with him Thursday at lunchtime, he said they were still without water or power in parts of town. Schools are closed until Monday.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister toured the tornado damage Thursday afternoon at two schools, including Seminole Academy, a public charter school, where portable classrooms have were declared a total loss.
‘The damage and devastation is just unbelievable,’ she said, ‘and when you consider this had happened three or four hours earlier, what it would have meant for the safety of students and staff .”
Although the main campus building is salvageable, there is no longer a roof. Hofmeister said the state will do whatever it can to help the public charter school resume.
Hofmeister also met several teachers and staff who were cleaning on Thursday.
Special Education Director Tiffani Coker said she was grateful to be alive. She came to school on Wednesday evening with her three boys and her husband to hide in the cellar because the family does not have a cellar at home.
When the tornado hit, she said it sounded like a train, but that wasn’t all she heard.
“There was also breaking glass and twisting metal and my seven-year-old screaming and all that noise together, it was just chaos,” she added. Seminole College fared much better, only sustaining damage to the roof of the gymnasium.
Cleanup efforts continue downtown where there is a police presence amid piles of crumpled metal and people could be spotted working on top of buildings.
Utility crews are also busy trying to restore power and cleanup continues in a residential area not far from the city center where we found a house with part of the roof missing.
City manager Steve Saxon said the recovery is a major undertaking.
“We will make sure everyone is safe, electricity and water are restored,” he said.
Saxon said the city was also under a boil order.
Fortunately, there were no fatalities and no serious injuries. When we asked Saxon what people could do to help, he said they needed prayers.
Seminole resident Brooke Dragich and her three children are now looking for a new place to live after losing part of their roof in the tornado. She has been told that her current house, which she rents out, is no longer habitable now that much of the roof is gone.
Part of the roof collapsed onto her sofa, coffee table and dining room table. She said her daughters room is also flooded now.
Fortunately, she and the children took refuge in a friend’s cellar on Wednesday evening, but it was still a scary experience for everyone.
Dragich said she had renters insurance and was now trying to find another place to live, in Seminole if possible where her children have lots of friends:
“I’m worried about it, I’m stressed but I have a good support system and we’re going to take it step by step,” she said.
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