SEMINOLE, Okla. – Days before deadly tornadoes raked the Plains, forecasters warned people big storms were on the way and that they would be large and powerful. Scientists even predicted almost to the hour when the twisters might strike.
They were almost right on the money.
Technological advances, particularly the use of supercomputers that can crunch vast amounts of atmospheric data, have given meteorologists powerful new tools to warn of oncoming storms long before they strike.
The line of storms may have spawned as many as 19 tornadoes as it marched through central Kansas and into Oklahoma Monday evening, leveling houses, flipping cars and dropping hail as big as softballs. Two people were killed and dozens more injured.
“What is disheartening is to tell people for a week that something is going to happen, get warnings out and still have people lose their lives,” said Dick Elder, chief meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita, Kan.
On Tuesday, families picked through broken furniture and dented appliances outside their shattered homes. Garbage trucks scooped up mattresses and other debris.
State officials, meanwhile, revised Monday’s death toll from five to two after discovering three critically injured Cleveland County children had survived. A miscommunication occurred when relatives called a hospital to check on the children, who had been transferred, and state officials were later told they had died, said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.
All three remained in critical condition Tuesday, Ooten said.
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