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4 people died and hundreds injured when tornadoes spun across Oklahoma

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

At least four people died, and hundreds were injured, when a swarm of powerful tornadoes spun across Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska over the weekend. Some of the worst damage was south of Oklahoma City, in the town of Sulphur. Anne (ph) Pope of member station KOSU spent time with residents who are sorting through heaps of debris.

ANNA POPE, BYLINE: At least 19 tornadoes roared across Oklahoma on Saturday. One, which hit Sulphur, was particularly devastating in the city of 5,000.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXCAVATORS RUNNING)

POPE: Excavators were clearing the roads of storm debris downtown. Cindy Bates was there trying to get into one of her buildings, and she couldn't believe what it all looked like.

CINDY BATES: You know, I was raised in that Cooper Auto Store right there as a child, so I grew up on these streets, and seeing it devastated like this is - it's tough.

POPE: She's lucky - her home is fine, and her family is safe.

BATES: You know, the good Lord willing, we're still here, and we'll survive. We'll figure it out.

POPE: That's exactly what so many people are trying to do now. This area is part of the Chickasaw Nation, and tribal leaders have been working with local authorities since the storm.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION WORK)

POPE: Steve Cash is an officer with the Chickasaw Nation Emergency Management. He walks through the rubble, as workers cut plywood to patch busted windows on the buildings that weren't knocked down by the tornado.

STEVE CASH: Yeah. They're coming here and trying to minimize the damage, mitigate it a little bit, because you'll have more rain coming in, and just trying to preserve what they have.

POPE: The Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department has also been in Sulphur, helping out. The damage downtown is striking. There are piles of bricks where buildings once stood, cars overturned, walls caved in, trees snapped like toothpicks, a stop sign ripped off its metal pole. As damage assessments continue, Cash and his team are helping co-ordinate whatever needs to be done.

CASH: It doesn't matter if they're tribal members. If it affects the community, it affects all of us, so - but one thing about tribes - when there's devastation or disaster, they're going to be there.

POPE: Tornadoes are common in Oklahoma, especially this time of year. Still, Governor Kevin Stitt says it's the worst damage he's seen in his six years in office. For NPR News, I'm Anna Pope in Sulphur, Okla.

(SOUNDBITE OF HNNY'S "KINDNESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Anna Pope

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