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Oklahoma Communities Begin Arduous Cleanup Post-Weekend Storms Claim Lives


When an ominous tornado swept into Sulphur, Oklahoma, Sheila Hilliard Goodman, a grandmother and casino worker, sought refuge inside Raina’s Sport Lounge along with approximately 30 other patrons in the bustling downtown area.

Tragedy struck when the bar’s roof collapsed on Saturday, leaving Sheila as the sole casualty among those present. Her family’s heart-wrenching search on Sunday revealed her fate, a stark reminder of the storm’s devastating toll.

The severe weather onslaught, a part of a broader outbreak across the central U.S., resulted in over 100 injuries, authorities disclosed. Oklahoma’s harrowing ordeal followed a prior wave of tornadoes in Iowa and Nebraska, which claimed one life.

Meteorologist Rick Smith of the National Weather Service detailed the impact, noting at least 22 tornadoes in Oklahoma, some rated EF3 or higher. These formidable twisters wrought destruction, targeting communities like Holdenville, Marietta, and Sulphur, their late-night arrival heightening the peril.

In Sulphur, home to around 5,000 residents, downtown bore the brunt, with numerous structures reduced to rubble, vehicles tossed, and homes stripped of their roofs over a vast expanse.

Despite the chaos, resilience surged. A testament to this spirit, the local newspaper persisted uninterrupted for 82 years, embodying the town’s unwavering resolve.

Injuries mounted, including infants, and fatalities ensued, amplifying the tragedy. Elsewhere, Iowa grappled with its own tornado aftermath, registering 17 tornadoes and widespread property damage.

Kansas and Missouri, too, witnessed their share of tornado activity, though the full extent remained under assessment.

The scene in Sulphur on Monday painted a somber picture: a once-thriving park now lay ravaged, its towering trees uprooted, and debris strewn about. Amidst the wreckage, the hum of chainsaws pierced the air as residents commenced the arduous task of clearing pathways to their homes.

Further north, Holdenville mourned two lives lost and significant property damage. Meanwhile, near Marietta, tragedy struck again, claiming yet another victim along Interstate 35.

In the face of adversity, federal aid was forthcoming, with President Joe Biden pledging support to Governor Kevin Stitt and declaring a state of emergency in a dozen counties.

For Vicki and Larry Combs, owners of a consignment store, the road to recovery began with salvaging what little remained of their business, a testament to their resolve amidst the wreckage.

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