On Thursday night, April 14, 2011 many of Pushmataha County’s Residents watched and waited to see what the incoming super cell storm had in store for us. For most, it amounted to nothing more than power outages, strong winds and heavy rains. With multiple cells crossing over our area, most of us came out no worse for wear.
One of the main areas of concern was in the northern part of Pushmataha County where the portion of the super cell, which was producing tornados, was going to hit head on. In the Clayton area there were reports of downed trees, some of which caused damage to homes, but no one was reported injured.
County Commissioner Michael Brittingham reported that Sobal, Oleta, Spencerville and Gooding were hit the hardest. “It is going to take the fire departments and crews weeks to clean up all of the downed trees, and that is with the State’s help,” said Brittingham. “But for as big of a storm as it was we are lucky that no one in our area really got hurt.”
Unfortunately, on Friday morning, residents of Tushka, Atoka County, woke up to realize just how bad the devastation really was. The Atoka City Manager confirmed a total of four tornadoes came through their area. Thursday’s tornado killed two 70 year-old sisters and left at least 25 more injured or in critical condition as the tornado ripped through the town of about 350 residents.
Around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night a tornado, said to be about an 1/8 of a mile wide, touched down in Tushka. It was described to be the largest since the Lone Grove tornado back in 2009. Storm chasers are said to have tracked the storm from its original place or origin, Tishomingo.
Semis lined Highway 75 as the strong winds had tipped them over, the school was completely destroyed, and at least a dozen homes and businesses were gone.
Tushka Public School Principal Matt Simpson said the storm destroyed five school buildings and that the campus is littered with downed trees and bricks blown from the buildings. The school won't reopen for the rest of school year and officials now have the task of figuring out where students will attend class.
High winds associated with the same storm system killed seven people across Arkansas early Friday. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said he has never seen such a high death toll from straight-line winds in the state, and that teams are still searching stricken areas for more victims.