The Woodward News

Local News

April 15, 2012

Tornado rips through Woodward

At least 5 fatalities from storm

Woodward, Okla. — A massive tornado hit the west part of Woodward early Sunday morning, causing extensive damage and loss of life.

Six people are known to have died in the tornado, 2 people, 1 a child, southwest of Woodward near the Tangier area and 2 children at the Hideaway Trailer Park. Another person from the trailer park died at the hospital, officials said.

Among those killed were Frank Hobbie and his daughters Faith Dean Hobbie, 8, and Kelly Marie Hobbie, 6. All 3 were in the trailer park. Killed southwest of Woodward were Darren Juhl and his 10-year-old daughter Rosa Marie.

The sixth victim's name was released Monday afternoon. Steve Peil, 62, died late Sunday at an Amarillo Hospital. Piel was in the Hideaway Trailer Park when the tornado hit. He was transported by helicopter to Amarillo on Sunday.

Crews searched for more victims after daylight on Sunday but didn't report finding anyone.

There were 29 injuries reported, ranging from minor to critical. Woodward Regional Hospital CEO Dave Wallace said 6 people were admitted and 5 more transported to other hospitals, 4 by helicopter to hospitals in Amarillo and Lubbock and a 5th later in the day to Enid by ambulance. One of those taken to Amarillo was a young boy who was placed in full body cast.

 The tornado, which just struck just after midnight, was the deadliest in the Woodward area since the April 9, 1947 tornado that killed over 100 people.

Sunday evening, Rick Smith, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman tweeted  that after surveying the damage the preliminary rating for the Woodward tornado is an EF-3. Smith noted that the ratings are subject to change.

Woodward Emergency Management officials confirmed there were 89 homes and 13 businesses destroyed in the tornado. Many more buildings suffered at least some damage.

Gov. Mary Fallin toured the area Sunday afternoon and she also declared a state of emergency for 12 counties in Oklahoma, including Woodward.

Fallin said after touring the area that the emergency responders were "remarkable" in their response,

"Getting the response out immediately throughout the community - it's just remarkable what you have done," Fallin told a group of emergency officials. "Once again that emphasizes how important it is to have a plan."

Mayor Roscoe Hill said Sunday afternoon, that Woodward is going to rebuild. He spoke of homeowners clearing out debris from their home and starting to repair things where they could.

"We're going to pick it up and we're going to straightened up and we're gonna get built back and we're gonna grow further through this," Hill said

The storm was extremely fast-moving.

Officials said there was just 3 minutes of warning time before the tornado hit. Possibly tower or power line issues limited the time available for sirens to sound. Woodward Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said he switched to the backup siren system, but said "it looks like we lost power to most of the sirens because of the violence of the tornado."

"The warning was issued at 12:16 a.m. and the tornado hit the town at 12:19 a.m., we had no time to issue a warning with any other type of system," Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said.

One of the sirens apparently did go off and some people noted they did hear it, while other reports were that the sound was faint or not heard at all.

Assistant City Manager Doug Haines said he could hear a faint siren, however it wasn't until his mother called him at that same moment to warn him of the storm that he sought shelter.

Haines said he was barely able to latch the door on his safe room before "then boom," the tornado struck his home, causing extensive damage.

"There is a declared state of emergency, that's automatic when the tornado warning system is activated," Riffel said. "Search and rescue began immediately,"

Riffel noted that fire and rescue crews worked quickly to try to help people from their damaged homes.

"We did take a direct hit, the northwest part of town received the most damage," Riffel said.  "It stayed on the ground for a great distance. "It was limited in scope and path, but it was destructive in the areas that it was hit.. A number of homes were destroyed or damaged, but the mobile home park suffered the biggest brunt of the damage."

Meritt Harlow, the Woodward News circulation director, was at his dad's home in 2500 block of Taylor.

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