Storm causes flooding, damage, power outages

Sequoyah County residents, particularly those in Sallisaw, found themselves virtually trying to float themselves around town Friday as a strong thunderstorm bumped over four inches of rain in just over an hour and a half.

The county may have dodged a larger bullet as the storm, before reaching Sequoyah County, spawned an EF-1 tornado at Keefeton in Muskogee county.

Sallisaw City Manager Keith Skelton said Sallisaw was fortunate in that there wasn't more damage in the city.

The storm caused several power outages and localized flooding in the “usual places,” Skelton said.

Lightning strikes and high winds knocked down trees across power lines, causing the outage. Skelton said electric crews were out almost immediately and had power restored by 11 p.m. Friday.

Many of the side streets were flooded and Sallisaw police were out blocking certain streets from traffic. The KCS underpass on Cherokee Ave. flooded and backed traffic up, forcing the traffic to take side streets that also ended up being inundated.

Some residents also reported their homes had taken on water during the storm. However, Skelton said the city suf fered mostly wind damage, limbs blown off trees and trees falling on power lines.

Skelton said the storm moved through in about 90 minutes and his rain gauge recorded 4.5 inches. He estimated the rain total at between 4.3 to 4.7 inches.

Steve Rutherford, director of Sequoyah County Emergency Management, backed that up, saying the electronic rain gauge at his office recorded 4.1 inches in the same time frame.

Across the county, Rutherford said several stables at Blue Ribbon Downs had their roofs blown off and power shut down due to power poles being knocked down.

Rutherford said the same type of damage as Sallisaw suffered also occurred around the county with trees being down and power outages occurring. There were lines down in a lot of places, he said.

“I've spotted storms for years and this was one of the worst ones I've seen. It was unreal,” Rutherford said.

He said he was returning from Muskogee and drove through the storm. He had gone to Muskogee to pick up supplies related to COVID-19. Rutherford said he drove through rain at 35 mph and went through some small hail.

Apparently, Rutherford drove through Keefeton, located south of Muskogee, where an EF-1 tornado hit and destroyed several homes.

The National Weather Service said the tornado touched down about 9:38 a.m. Friday and had wind speeds between 100 and 110 mph. The weather service said the tornado traveled 4.8 miles with a path as wide as 525 yards.

Developing along Elm Grove Road at Keefeton, the tornado traveled west of South 25th Street East before dissipating just east of the Muskogee Turnpike. The National Weather Service said the tornado damaged or destroyed about 16 homes, several outbuildings, uprooted trees and snapped power poles.

“It was unbelievable. We were just fortunate in the county,” Rutherford said.

Sequoyah County Times

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