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Tornado Hits Okla. Amusement Park

June 14, 1998

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tornadoes and strong winds injured amusement park goers, toppled a radio tower and tossed cars and trucks Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Two children suffered minor injuries at Frontier City and another suffered an asthma attack at the amusement park, said Mark Robison, director of operations for the city ambulance service.

Workers and others at the amusement park reported people cut by flying glass. A teen-ager cried out in pain as she limped to an ambulance. No other injuries from the storms were reported.

Marcus Norris of Oklahoma City was one of dozens of people whose cars were damaged or destroyed in the Frontier City parking lot.

``I had a 2-by-4 go through one window. A door just kind of caved in,″ Norris said of his 1998 Grand Am. ``My windshield wiper blade went through the window. If that’s what caused it, it must have been some kind of wind.″

``All of a sudden it started making a circular motion,″ said Frontier worker Joseph Whetley. ``Everybody just dropped their drinks and stuff and took off running. Everybody was hollering and screaming.″

Workers herded crowds into an enclosed entertainment complex at the center. Glass shattered when the twister struck and many people were cut by the glass, Whetley and others said.

``Lights fell down and pieces of it started falling off. Stuff started falling on people.″

Jane Braden, a spokeswoman for Frontier City, said the park would be closed Sunday while crews assess damage. She said a number of trees were down and some facades were damaged.

Brian Alford, a spokesman for OG&E, said power was out to 25,000 to 30,000 customers in north Oklahoma City.

``We have crews in the area making repairs. We’ve lost a substantial portion of our radio contact,″ Alford said. He said crews were relying on cellular backup.

Trees were down and power was off at the home of Noel Bowles, who rode out the storm in the safety of a storm shelter at his home at Britton Road and North Bryant. Bowles watched television warnings, and headed for the shelter when he looked up and saw it coming.

``I had a pear tree full of pears and I knew it was here when I heard all those pears start flying off and banging into our shed out there,″ he said.

The National Weather Service said Saturday’s storm was the first major tornado to hit Oklahoma City since May 1986. The last minor tornado hit in 1992.

Debris blocked Interstate 35 on the northeast edge of the metropolitan area. Trucks were overturned and the second story of a building was destroyed near the amusement park.

Two motels were evacuated because of concerns over possible gas leaks and power outages.

Police Capt. Charles Allen said significant damage occurred in a 3- to 4-square mile area in northwest Oklahoma City. ``We have some businesses pretty heavily damaged on May Avenue,″ he said.

A lodge and cabins were damaged at Camp Dakani, the Campfire Boys and Girls camp just north of Frontier City. Trees were down as well.

Funnel clouds formed and dipped down throughout the afternoon as the storms moved across the middle of the state. Flashes from power lines brightened the skyline against the dark clouds.

Oklahoma City police and other emergency personnel were checking out damage and asking people who didn’t live in the damage areas to stay out.

The same storm system produced a funnel cloud in El Reno earlier, but no damage was reported. A tornado was reported on the ground west of Guthrie at 6:43 p.m. There were no reports of damage.

Power lines and trees were reported down in Blaine and Alfalfa counties after thunderstorms passed over the area. In Grant County, straight-line winds tore roofs off homes and knocked down trees and power lines.

Damage was also reported in the Medford and Wakita areas in northern Oklahoma.

The radio tower for WKY radio fell into an open field.

Update hourly