Tornadoes, massive hail and high winds ripped through parts of Oklahoma, causing widespread damage and leaving hundreds of thousands without power amid the blistering June heat.
Videos shared on social media Sunday show the aftermath of the storm, including downed trees and power lines, plus debris from torn roofs and siding and collapsed structures. As of Sunday night, at least 20 counties had reported damage, according to local media reports.
The severe weather is the latest in a spate of storms that have battered Oklahoma and parts of the southern United States over the past week. The brunt of Saturday’s storm appears to have hit the Tulsa area the hardest, according to city officials.
The Tulsa Police Department shared on Twitter that the damage is “significant” and said in a subsequent tweet that the city issued a proclamation declaring Tulsa a “disaster area.”
Nearly 250,000 customers were still without power as of 5:30 p.m. local time Sunday, according to utility companies Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OGE) and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO).
Wayne Greene, a PSO spokesman, said news week in a phone interview he was unable to provide an estimate of when power will be restored, but said PSO expects it to take “several” days. He says severe weather on Saturday caused the biggest outage the company has faced since the 2007 ice storm.
“There’s a map of our outages on our website, and it’s everywhere,” Greene told news week. “It’s really the whole city of Tulsa.”
Greene called Saturday’s storm “remarkable.”
“I’ve lived in Oklahoma for 60 years and it was the most powerful thunderstorm I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. news week.
news week also contacted the Tulsa Office of the National Weather Service (NWS) by phone, email and Twitter.
Numerous images and videos of the storm went viral on social media, with Twitter users sharing jaw-dropping shots of lightning streaking across the Oklahoma sky, clips of a funnel cloud forming, and massive hail hitting the ground.
Several videos showed parts of Oklahoma being hit by massive “gorilla hail,” a term coined by storm chaser Reed Timmer to describe the destruction caused by large chunks of ice.
Timmer, a meteorologist who also starred on the Discovery Channel reality series. storm chasers, shared video captured near Beaver, Oklahoma on Saturday. The clip shows pieces of hail up to 5 inches.
“4-5″ gorilla hailstones west of Beaver, OK yesterday. The Dominator 3 eats these hailstones for breakfast,” Timmer tweeted.
Blake Brown, an extreme weather photographer and videographer, posted a photo showing the massive hail.
“Absolutely crazy hail today! 4″ stones and even some 5s in there,” he said.
A time-lapse video of a funnel cloud forming was hugely popular, with numerous versions of the clip going viral on Twitter.
“What. A. View,” Weather Nation said.
The wind gusts, which according to the NWS reached up to 80 mph in certain parts of the state, were so powerful that they downed a power pole at the University of Tulsa’s HA Chapman Stadium.
Tulsa police shared additional footage of damage and a crowded gas station and urged people to stay home.
“PLEASE STAY HOME IF YOU CAN. We know many are without power, but stay home while it’s safe,” Tulsa police said. he said on Twitter. “The traffic lights are out, the streets are congested due to four-way stop signs, power lines and tree branches block the roads. Open gas stations are crowded.” #Tulsa Police”
With temperatures expected to climb into the mid-90s over the next few days, the city has opened cooling stations for residents without power.
“Below are important numbers and locations of cooling stations for anyone who needs a place to cool down or charge their phones and medical equipment,” city officials. posted on Twitter. “Please take this afternoon and tonight to check on your neighbors and the elderly who may not have electricity and/or cell phone service.”