LONE GROVE, Okla. (AP) - Residents on Wednesday confronted the wreckage of homes and businesses destroyed by an unusual cluster of February twisters that ripped across Oklahoma, killing eight people.
One young girl was lifted into the air as a tornado pulled the roof off a house, but her mother and others held her down.
Emergency responders searched for more victims in Lone Grove, where all of the victims died Tuesday and 14 people were seriously injured, said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten.
She said the National Guard was sent to help local authorities.
"We will do everything we can to get Oklahomans the assistance they need," Gov. Brad Henry said.
Buildings were damaged or destroyed throughout the town of about 4,600, some 100 miles south of Oklahoma City, said Chester Agan, assistant emergency manager for Carter County.
"This is where I was raised, this is where I grew up," Trina Quinton said with tears rolling down her cheek, standing next to a pile of rubble that used to be a furniture store owned by a cousin.
"I'm grateful that the business wasn't open and they weren't here," Quinton said. "This is how they make their living, rebuilding is probably not going to be an option."
Much of the most severe damage appeared to be centered in two mobile home parks that were "pretty much wiped out," said Dave Smith, a paramedic who helped in the first emergency response.
The eight confirmed deaths included seven people in Lone Grove and a truck driver who was driving through the area, said Robert Deaton, interim chief investigator for state Medical Examiner's office.
"We went into the only cellar on our block. There were 30 of us in a 6 by 6 underground cellar," said Lone Grove resident Joe Hornback, 42.
He said there was a calm before the tornado hit. "Then you just heard the wind blow, just like you turned the light switch on," Hornback said.
Part of the roof blew off the house where Lana Hartman crowded into a small clothes closet with seven other people. The twister lifted one of her daughters into the air, but everyone grabbed the girl, she said.
"I was in shock, I think I still am," Hartman said. "We're alive, that's all that matters."
A twister also damaged homes and businesses in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, but only three minor injuries were reported. Another tornado was reported in north-central Oklahoma and six homes were destroyed near the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond.
Meteorologists would survey the damage Wednesday, said Doug Speheger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman.
"We don't really have any indication of how a strong a tornado the Lone Grove one was," Speheger said.
In Edmond, a body shop and the vehicles inside were twisted into a ball of metal.
"It's just surreal," shop manager Michael Jerry said. "You just don't believe it. Especially knowing you were just there minutes before. The steel girders are in a ball."
The tornado in northwest Oklahoma City apparently developed near Wiley Post Airport and then headed northeast, damaging several shopping centers and restaurants at a major intersection. One wall of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant collapsed.
That twister then hit the Boulder Ridge Apartments, a spread of two-story units surrounding a courtyard.
Shawn Tiesman, 33, moved to the complex from Iowa about four months ago and got his first taste of Oklahoma's notorious weather but without the same protection of his former home.
"Where I'm from, we've got basements," Tiesman said. "I'm amazed that there's no basements here."
He invited his upstairs neighbors into his apartment and then used his futon mattress to barricade them into a walk-in closet. While they were in the closet, a large section of roof was blown off one of the complex's apartment buildings and part of a wall was blown off another. One apartment had a gaping hole knocked in its side. Parked cars were smashed into each other.
Tornado sirens were sounded in the area but some residents said they were still caught off guard.
"I can't believe we didn't hear it," said Traci Keil, 37.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported about 8,900 customers without power, nearly 3,500 in Lone Grove, according to its Web site.
Tornado in Oklahoma are most frequent in the spring, but can occur at any time, weather service meteorologist Rick Smith said.
Since 1950 the state has been struck by 44 February tornadoes, said Speheger at the weather service. The most recent one before Tuesday's spurt occurred Feb. 24, 2000, damaging a barn and power lines in Ellis and Harper counties in western Oklahoma.
Outside Oklahoma, however, Speheger said an outbreak of twisters on Feb. 5, 2008, killed more than 50 people in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, wind of more than 60 mph caused dust storms in western Texas that reduced visibility so much some roads were closed. The weather service reported wind speeds reached 88 mph in parts of Texas, downing trees and power outages late Tuesday.