(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Officials are stepping up cleanup efforts on Sunday in Oklahoma after a number of communities were hit by deadly tornadoes in the last two weeks as the death toll from Friday’s storms increased to 11.
Among the fatalities from the deadly twisters was well-known meteorologist and storm chaser Tim Samaras, according to family members.
Samaras, who founded TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment) and appeared on the show Storm Chasers, dedicated three decades of his life to studying tornadoes.
“Out of all storm chasers he doesn’t take chances, he’s the one that puts the probes in the path of the tornado to learn more about them. He is not, you know, a young gun running around making bad decisions person so I am so sad and shocked, it is such a loss for the community,” ABC News weather anchor Ginger Zee said of Samaras.
Samaras’ son Paul and along with storm chase partner Carl Young were also killed in Friday’s storms.
Heavy rains flooded the same roads packed with debris after a number of twisters criss-crossed traffic-packed highways outside of Oklahoma City during rush hour Friday night.
That same storm system heads east, bringing hail, damaging winds, and flooding.
To aid recovery efforts, Oklahoma Gas and Electric has worked hard to get customers in the Oklahoma City back up and running. Friday night’s tornadoes left tens of thousands without power. With approximately 48,000 in the dark in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area alone, questions loom as to how soon residents will have their lights back on.
“The flooding though that we’ve had has really hindered our access to get in and determine what kind of damage we have,” Kathleen O’Shea of OG&E told ABC News.
But Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said that the storms could have been a lot worse for the Sooner State’s capital.
“It could have been really, really bad,” he told ABC News Saturday. “The fact that it did not come down out of the sky and in retrospect, did not have the high winds as the May 20 storm, we’re probably pretty fortunate.”
Yet Cornett said he plans to review why the majority of the lives lost in the storm were people on the road trying to outrun the twisters.
“We don’t need people in their cars during a high risk storm like that,” he said. “[People] have tornado precautions in their mind, they just need to use them. They don’t need to start getting in their cars and taking off.”
“The worst place you can be in a tornado is in your car. You get in your car, almost anything can happen,” said Cornett.
As Oklahoma continues to rebuild in from tornadoes’ destruction in the Oklahoma City area and from the storms in Moore, officials acknowledge relief efforts will be trying both physically and emotionally for residents.
“We’re still holding funerals for families that lost loved ones, families that lost kids in grade schools [in Moore],” said Cornett. “The emotional impact of May 20 remains with us. The physical aspect will take us time.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jen Christensen, CNN
Michael Pearson, Faith Karimi and Ian Lee, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com