By Mail Foreign Service
This petrol station took a direct hit from a tornado flipping over a lorry. Five people died yesterday as storms raged through Oklahoma
Tornados ripped through Oklahoma yesterday killing at least five people and injuring dozens more.
Homes were destroyed, lorries were flipped off motorways and hail the size of tennis balls smashed through windscreens.
Power cuts affected more than 37,000 homes and businesses in the state as the storm which had been predicted by forecasters last week took hold. The violent weather also created tornados in neighbouring Kansas.
Three months ago the state was also hit by a deadly tornado when at least eight people were killed.
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Destruction: Ryshele and Ivanhoe Coleman walk with their daughter Rikki past what is left of their neighbours' homes in Prairie Creek Village, in Slaughterville
Fire chief Paul Long surveys the damage at Prairie Creek where two people were injured
In Oklahoma City a child was killed by flying debris while a man died in a separate incident when his camper van flipped over on top of him. The other three fatalities happened in Cleveland County, south of the city.
So far the number of injured has reached 58 with two of them in a critical condition.
'You could just hear stuff hitting the house,' said Linda Sugg, who stayed in her home in Norman, the largest city in Cleveland County, as the storm passed overhead.
After the weather cleared, she walked through her garden picking up debris.
Many Oklahoma residents had been prepared for the bad weather and TV broadcasters dedicated the entire day to covering the storm, with some showing live video of the twisters as they rolled in.
'The kids and I got in the wardrobe and prayed,' said Jamie Keyes, also of Norman about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City.
'I heard a hiss. It was like something was whistling very loud,' she said. 'We're all very fortunate.'
Near Seminole, about 60 miles east of Oklahoma City, at least two homes were levelled after a tornado tore through. Rescue workers then went through the area to determine if anyone was hurt or trapped.
Widespread destruction led authorities to close Interstate 40, a major east-west route, in both directions just east of Oklahoma City.
A Love's truck stop took a direct hit.
'Miracle of all miracles, we don't have any injuries from that location,' said a spokeswoman for the company. 'We will rebuild and reopen.'
Interstate 35, which runs from Mexico to Minnesota, also was closed briefly at the Kansas-Oklahoma border because overturned tractor-trailers blocked all lanes.
At Moore, near Oklahoma City, trucks were overturned in the central reservation but the road remained open.
An injured woman is attended to north of Highway 9 after the tornado hit Norman, Oklahoma
In Kansas, the most serious damage was reported in Belmont.
Several homes were damaged in the town east of Topeka and widespread power outages were reported.
Hours after hitting Oklahoma, the tornados headed towards Arkansas.
Oklahoma City and its suburbs saw three storms develop just to the west and each caused damage as they moved across an area home to 1.2 million people.
'We've had a very strange event: multiple tornadic portions with this event as it came through,' said David Barnes, the emergency management director for Oklahoma County.
'We have multiple vehicles overturned, a housing addition has had multiple homes destroyed.'
Tornado warnings in the Plains states and Midwest had all expired by 04.15 GMT.
In Alfalfa County, Sheriff Charlie Tucker said hail as big as baseballs broke the windshields of numerous cars and damaged some homes.
The Storm Prediction Center at Norman had predicted the outbreak, saying the atmosphere had the right mix of winds, heat and moisture.
Shaken: A muddy kitten takes cover next to a tree after the tornado flattened homes in Prairie Creek Village[endtext]