Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for Ottawa County on Monday after an EF-2 Tornado tore through Quapaw on Sunday, killing one and injuring six others.
The Quapaw Fire Department said the storm hit without notice. The storm popped up so quickly, the National Weather Service did not have time to issue a tornado warning before the first twister touched down.
“We did not have a warning,” said local woman Lachrista McBride. “The sirens did not go off, so nobody expected it.”
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said 68-year-old John L. Brown of Baxter Springs, Kansas, was traveling through Quapaw with his wife when the tornado struck. Authorities said Brown pulled into a parking lot, where a concrete wall fell onto his car. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities said his wife was hospitalized and later released.
The tornado did more than take a man’s life. The EF-2 ripped a mile long path through the city.
“It’s pretty scary,” said James Shotwell. “I could’ve reached out and probably shook hands with it.”
Shotwell was outside his home when the tornado touched down.
“The only thing that is still on my mind is that the tornado walked from the end of our town, which is probably three blocks from me, to the end of my street and then jumped to Main Street,” he said.
More than a day later, people are still trying to soak up what happened.
“It was a close call,” McBride said. “I am surprised there was not a lot more tragedy.”
The tornado destroyed 15 structures, mostly houses, businesses and the Quapaw volunteer fire department. More than 40 other structures sustained minor to major damage.
Some people said they expect it will take months for the city to re-build, but the community will work together to put the pieces back together.
“It’ll be scary for a while,” McBride said. “We will recover. We will recover.”
Emergency workers and volunteers were in Quapaw on Monday providing food, water and shelter to people who needed assistance. The American Red Cross served lunch to more than 300 people, and expected to serve even more for dinner.
“Today we did mobile feeding,” said Laurie Summers. “We took food out into the neighborhoods and to the emergency management folks. We went out to the neighborhoods and distributed water and food. We also gave out encouragement and many hugs
The Red Cross plans to be in Quapaw for as long as their assistance is needed.
The power remains out in the city. Utility crews said it would likely take days before it’s restored.