Tornados swept through the Tulsa and Sand Springs areas Wednesday evening, forcing ORU students and administrators to seek shelter around campus.
The severe weather started just before 5 p.m. when the first severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Tulsa County.
Winds of up to 85 mph were reported in Tulsa as well as a major hailstorm downtown. The storm was reported to have softball size hail before reaching Sand Springs and Tulsa.
The storm brought heavy rainfall across the Tulsa area and on the ORU campus, and frequent lightening strikes.
A tornado warning was issued for Tulsa County at 5:14 p.m. The tornado first touched down over Lake Keystone around 5:27 p.m. and moved east into the Sand Springs area.
The funnel was reported to be a half-mile wide. It reached Sand Springs around 5:35 p.m. At that time tornado sirens began going off in the Tulsa metro area.
Students were sent to shelter around 6:15 p.m. when circulation began in the clouds near campus.
“At first I was really shocked because I didn’t think we were going to have a tornado or rain because it was beautiful out,” sophomore Emily Tackett said. “I wasn’t worried at all [when the sirens went off] because the weather didn’t seem like tornado weather. The hall directors evacuated us from Saga and I went to Zoppelt.”
Sand Springs was hit the hardest by the storm. A mobile home park located near 145th West Avenue and U.S. Highway 51 was destroyed.
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reported one person killed from the mobile home park. Three residents were rushed to the hospital, two of which are in critical condition.
A Daylight Donut shop on 177th West Avenue just off U.S. Highway 412 was also destroyed.
Aim High Academy, a gymnastics center located at 45th West Avenue and Charles Page Boulevard, had the roof collapse over the main gym floor. There were 60 students taking shelter in the basement at the time. All of them survived unharmed.
The tornado moved through the Sand Springs area before lifting over Tulsa. ORU student Adam Giedd said he saw a funnel cloud to the left of Michael behind upper lot.
The tornado cleared the Tulsa area by 7 p.m. and students were given the all clear to leave shelters.
Students and faculty across campus had very different reactions to the storm issues. Many sought shelter upon hearing sirens while others wanted to brave the weather.
“As soon as I walked outside I heard the sirens,” junior Kyle Sterk said. “My first thought was to go watch the tornado. I’m from Texas and anytime there is a storm we go watch it. We watched from the EMR stairwell and saw a couple rotations in the clouds over us. I was mesmerized by it, it was really cool.”
Students made the best of the hour or so they spent stuck in shelter areas by watching weather or interacting with friends.
“Life was good in Zoppelt auditorium,” said Christi Sleiman. “We had one TV going with the weather, another one blank for those who would rather not know, and a whole separate room where we could watch The Office minus the sound. The hall director decided to veto a game of “twister.”
Over 31,000 people were without power in Tulsa County on Wednesday night, and Sand Springs schools remained closed through Thursday.