State of Emergency declared for 10 counties in eastern Oklahoma
Story updated Tuesday, June 21, 5:19 p.m.
Strong storms producing at least three tornadoes over the weekend ravaged Oklahoma, knocking out power and leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
Oklahomans continued cleaning up from the storm on the Juneteenth holiday, especially in Tulsa.
Widespread straight-line winds upwards of 100 miles per hour led to more than 300,000 customers losing power over the weekend, according to power companies across the state. Almost 100,000 were still without power Wednesday morning.
National Weather Service forecasts show little predicted severe weather in the future, but danger remains.
Power outages persist — especially in Tulsa — where temperatures in the 90s and high humidity this week have the city opening up cooling centers for people who have lost power and air conditioning.
Public Service Oklahoma predicts that in the Tulsa metro area, the "majority of customers should have their power restored by 5 p.m. Saturday."
Severe storm damage in Northeast Oklahoma has power crews continuing to scramble. About 40 crews were cleaning up Tulsa streets to reopen roadways that were hampered by downed traffic signals turned into four way stops.
Treat Signs State of Emergency Declaration
Acting in lieu of Gov. Stit and Lt. Gov. Pinnell, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat signed an emergency declaration for 10 counties in northeastern Oklahoma.
“I personally witnessed the damage and devastation of the storms as I drove back to Oklahoma City from Catoosa yesterday,” Treat said in a statement. “It was clear that people in eastern Oklahoma are struggling and need all the support the state can give them during this time.”
Gov. Stitt is attending the Paris Air Show in France and Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell is also out of the state, according to Dale Denwalt’s reporting for The Oklahoman. With both out of the state, the acting governor’s responsibilities lie with Sen. Pro Tem Greg Treat. But Treat did not learn he was the acting governor until Stitt’s office notified him 1 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from his office.
Attorney General Gentner Drummond said there’s no law requiring the governor to notify the next-in-command when he leaves the state. But Drummond said he’d like to change that.
“We have seen the unnecessary delay and confusion this creates, all at the expense of Oklahomans struggling to cope with emergency circumstances," Drummond said in a press release. “I hope the Governor and Legislature will work to ensure Oklahoma families and businesses don’t experience similar delays when future disaster strikes.”
The emergency declaration will give agencies more purchasing power and relax shipping rules to speed up repairs and emergency services. The order also triggers state price gouging protections, which forbid any entity from increasing pre-emergency prices by more than 10%. The law does not apply to the petroleum or natural gas industries; the Governor signed a law to exempt natural gas from price gouging rules in May.
“My heart goes out to the Oklahomans impacted by last weekend’s severe weather, and the many people still overcoming the aftermath of those storms,” said Governor Stitt in a statement from Paris. “I am thankful for our emergency response teams and power crews who are working tirelessly to restore utilities in the affected areas.”
Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill also signed a State of Emergency order on the Muscogee Nation, Monday.
"With heat advisories in effect, and power outages continuing to impact the medically vulnerable, the conditions will remain until power is restored," Hill's order said. "Concern for the health and safety of all individuals is our priority and we are working to ensure health and safety concerns are addressed."
Cherokee Nation also declared a State of Emergency.
Bynum: Gas Shortage Coming to a Close
In a Tuesday press conference, Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum said that difficulties getting gasoline should ease in the near future.
"Right now, the main gap between you and getting all the fuel that you want is just the time needed for those tanker trucks to get out there to the terminals and transport that fuel from the terminals to stores and gas stations all over the Tulsa metro," Bynum said. “But the fuel is there."
The local gas station QuickTrip posted on Twitter that a number of its stores were still closed Tuesday and several were without unleaded 10 gas as well.
As residents without power brace for temperatures in the mid-90s this week, cooling shelters have opened around Tulsa.
Tulsa and Sand Springs have designated certain community centers as cooling stations during the daytime.
- Reed Park Community Center, 4233 S. Yukon Ave., Tulsa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Lacy Park Community Center, 2134 N. Madison Pl., Tulsa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Case Community Center, 1050 W Wekiwa Rd., Sand Springs – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The American Red Cross has opened three 24/7 shelters at Crosstown Church of Christ and Southminster Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, and Yale Assembly of Godin Yale. The Crosstown shelter can accommodate leashed pets. The Red Cross recommends that people staying overnight should try to bring their own blankets, pillows and toiletries.
- Crosstown Church of Christ, 3400 E. Admiral Pl., Tulsa – 24/7
- Yale Assembly of God, 777 Glory St., Yale – 24/7
- Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center, 3500 S Peoria Ave., Tulsa – 24/7
Several other Tulsa County locations are offering air conditioning and power during the day, according to the City of Tulsa’s website.
- Tulsa County Social Services, 2301 Charles Page Blvd., Tulsa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- John 3:16 Mission, 906 N. Cheyenne Ave., 2134 N. Madison Pl., Tulsa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Salvation Army, 102 N. Denver Ave., Tulsa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Hutcherson YMCA, 1120 E. Pine St., Tulsa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Other facilities have offered cooling services on Facebook or other social media.
- Believer's Church, 4705 S Memorial Dr., Tulsa – 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Tulsa Dream Center, 200 W 46th St N., Tulsa – 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- First Baptist Church Olive, 9372 S 433rd W Ave., Drumright – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Jennings Senior Center, 308 N Main St., Jennings – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Catoosa Public Library and Community Center, 105 E Oak St., Catoosa – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- River of Life Church, 521 E Broadway, Drumright – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
While not official cooling stations, some Tulsa Public Library locations are open with power and Wi-Fi. The library website lists locations that are closed and recommends calling 918-549-7323 for the latest information on open locations.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most refrigerated items be thrown out after 2 hours above 40˚F. The USDHHS’s Food Safety website says hard and processed cheeses, butter, fruits, vegetables and mushrooms can last longer at room temperature.
Most frozen foods can be refrozen if they remain cold, but they should be thrown out after 2 hours above 40˚F.
Tulsa Police Urge Caution on Roadways
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin says in the wake of storms, drivers in the city need to slow down. He spoke at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
One of his biggest concerns is reckless driving while street lights are down.
"We need you to slow down," he said. "We need you to follow the rules of the road. And our largest concerns are intersections.”
He said intersections that have flashing lights or no lights have been the sight of unnecessary collisions and that people need to move more slowly through intersections and come to complete stops when needed.
Franklin said police are going to ramp up citation enforcement in order to prevent collisions moving forward.
Three people confirmed dead in Tulsa, Creek and McCurtain Counties from storms
At a press conference Monday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum confirmed the death of a Tulsa resident who died from the power outages and storms. Mayor Bynum said the person relied on a respirator, which was inoperable during the power outages.
Mayor Bynum said the City is providing charging stations for people who need to charge equipment - but emphasized the importance of checking on a loved one or neighbor you know who relies on equipment like a respirator.
In Creek County, a man died after a tree fell on his home.
In McCurtain County, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office says another person died because of the storm, but details are unavailable at this time.
Tree Debris Cleanup
Tulsa has set up a temporary mulch site for residents and businesses to drop off fallen branches and other green waste at E Latimer St & N 89th E Ave. This mulch site will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The city’s permanent mulch site is still closed and without power.
When clearing brush with a chainsaw, experts advise taking precautions to operating the equipment necessary, like chainsaws. OSU Extension forestry specialist Ryan Desantis gave some chainsaw safety tips for the OSU Extension production agriculture program SUNUP. You can view his tips below.
The Tulsa Municipal Jail is closed and without power. In the meantime, municipal inmates are being housed at the David L. Moss medium-security prison in Tulsa.
Allison Herrera contributed to this report.