OAKS – Residents of southern Delaware County haven’t quickly forgotten the tornado that tore through the communities of Oaks, Leach, Kansas and Colcord two years ago on Monday, March 12, 2006, when they woke up to face widespread destruction in the early morning hours.
Since that day, some homes have been leveled and replaced by mobile homes provided by the federal government. Some homes have been hauled away and disposed of, and some homes are still standing just as they were the day of the tragedy.
Clean up efforts were still underway when Delaware County was hit by an ice storm on Thursday, January 11, 2007.
Tragedy had once again thrown Southern Delaware County into turmoil.
In response to the ice storm devastation, Kansas Mayor Jack Stonecipher said, “We were in real good shape after the ice storm because we were better prepared after the tornado.”
Following is the story ran in the March 13, 2006 issues of the Delaware County Journal:
A tornado ripped through southern Delaware County Sunday night, leveling large portions of the towns of Oaks, Leach, Kansas and Colcord.
Devastation was widespread Monday morning as officials worked to restore power, make damage assessments and begin the long clean-up process.
According to the Office of Emergency Management Monday morning, initial reports showed the heaviest damages in Delaware County were in the Twin Oaks-Colcord area, where three individuals were injured.
Local responders have located two boys from Colcord, ages 12 and 14, who were initially reported missing. The boys were unhurt.
The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Oaks High School in the Town of Kansas to help those displaced by the storm.
A total of 67 homes were damaged in the Twin Oaks-Colcord area. Of those, 36 were destroyed. Additionally, four businesses sustained damage. A more comprehensive damage assessment is currently underway.
Grand River Dam Authority reported damage to transmission lines in the area.
The public is being asked to please refrain from driving down to Twin Oaks to see the damage.
Scenic 412 was shut down except for through traffic Monday afternoon, as sightseeing traffic was hindering the power companies efforts to restore electricity.
In addition to OEM, those agencies responding to the scene included Wagoner County Emergency Management, Cherokee County Emergency Management, Delaware County Emergency Management, Cherokee County Emergency Medical Services, Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, Colcord Fire Department and Twin Oaks Fire Department.
Officials at Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (REC) reported Monday morning that almost 5,100 members were without service at some point Sunday night when four REC substations located in southern Delaware County lost power as a result of broken poles and downed lines. The first outage call was received by their dispatch center they say at around 9:20 p.m.
Another cell that moved through Ottawa County knocked out power to an estimated 80 co-op members in the Fairland/Miami area shortly after 11 p.m.
REC had six crews working throughout the night to restore power to its members. All available cooperative service personnel and contract crews were responding to the restoration effort at 5 a.m. Monday.
Cooperative officials were reporting that approximately 3,500 members were still without power at 6 a.m. Monday. That number was reduced about 3,000 members by 7:30 a.m.
“People in these storm-ravaged areas should also be especially wary of lines potentially in contact with a vehicle. In this case, stay away from the vehicle and the line,” said a cooperative spokesperson. “By the same token, do not drive over lines lying on the road and don’t drive under low-hanging lines. Also, keep children and pets away from downed lines, and don’t attempt to remove tree limbs or anything else caught in power lines. Always assume a downed power line is live.”
Storm spotters reported a tornado about 9:20 p.m. near Oaks and Kansas, Okla., in southern Delaware County, the National Weather Service reported.
The Cherokee Turnpike was closed in the area because of downed power lines following the storm, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said. Traffic was being detoured to Alternate U.S. 412, which runs parallel to the turnpike, an OHP dispatcher said.
The twister was being tracked by radar and storm spotters as it moved east through Delaware County into the Siloam Springs and Rogers, Ark., areas, the weather service said.
Another tornadic storm was reported in northern Delaware and southern Ottawa County, the NWS said.
The Delaware County storm was part of a series of severe storms that moved through northeast Oklahoma on Sunday night, dropping hail up to more than one inch in diameter in some areas.
Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico combined with wind shear from a strong overhead jet stream formed a perfect combination for severe weather conditions, said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist at the NWS in Norman.
“The amount of wind shear we’re seeing is unusually strong,” Burke said. “When you combine that with moisture east of the dry line, it produces a pretty volatile situation.”
The NWS reported scattered hail across the area, including golf ball to baseball size hail at Leach.
Several counties were under tornado warnings Sunday night, including Wagoner, Craig and Mayes. No tornadoes or damage was immediately reported in those counties, however.