OKLAHOMA CITY Homeowners collected scattered belongings Saturday after the second tornado to strike the city in as many days skipped through some neighborhoods and spared others, part of the nation's worst one-week barrage of tornadoes on record.
The enormous tornado tore across the city's outskirts during the dark late Friday, jumping from spot to spot along a southwest-to-northeast swath.
At least five people were injured, one critically, "which is unbelievable when you look at the pictures and that it went right across the metro," said Paul O'Leary, a spokesman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority.
President Bush issued a disaster declaration for the entire state Saturday, clearing the way for federal aid.
"We'll get this money going and we'll get to working for you," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown told Gov. Brad Henry after touring damaged neighborhoods.
Tornadoes, floods and other severe weather have killed 44 people in Missouri, Tennessee, Kansas, Georgia and Illinois in the past week.
By early Saturday, 298 tornadoes had been reported to the National Weather Service nationwide, said Rich Thompson, lead forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center of the National Weather Service, in suburban Norman. The most recent comparable rash was 159, in 1999.
That is the most tornadoes in one week since record-keeping started in the 1950s, said Dan McCarthy, warning coordination meteorologist at the prediction center.
"We just don't have a down day; that's what's been very unusual. It just doesn't seem to stop," Thompson said early Saturday.
After sunrise Saturday, the weather service posted a fresh round of tornado warnings for parts of Indiana, Missouri and Illinois. And the Storm Prediction Center said severe thunderstorms were possible from eastern Oklahoma to western Ohio.
"We're got one more system to deal with and expect one more big severe weather day (Saturday)," he said.
With Saturday's first daylight on the wreckage in Oklahoma City, authorities were still assessing the extent of the damage. About 18,000 OG&E customers were without power Saturday, the utility company OG&E said.
On Thursday, another strong tornado blasted a 19-mile-long path through Oklahoma City's southern suburbs, injuring 134, destroying more than 300 houses and businesses and damaging hundreds more. Unlike Friday's twister, that tornado stayed on the ground for most of its route. At least three people remained in critical condition Saturday.
Friday night's twister first touched down in Oklahoma City south of Interstate 40, moved north into the suburbs of Bethany and Warr Acres and then moved back into Oklahoma City along I-35, said police Sgt. Mike Klika. It then turned northeast back along I-44 and tracked toward Tulsa.
"I think our citizens had early warning and I think they learned their lesson, they took heed and took cover," Bethany Police Chief Neal Troutman said.
Putnam City West High School in far northwest Oklahoma City, which lost its roof in a tornado several years ago, was about two-thirds collapsed.
"At first glance, it looks like bulldozer material," Principal Kim Lanier said.
Neighbors came out to help Gene Wilson, whose mower service was heavily damaged.
"It's just devastating," Wilson said. "My building and everything I've worked for 30 years is down on the ground."
In Missouri, tornadoes touched down in at least two western counties Friday night, causing damage and some minor injuries, continuing a weeklong onslaught of severe weather in the Kansas City area.
"It came down right on top of me," said Freeman, Mo., Police Officer John Smith. "You could just here this 'brrrr' and I thought that was it. I thought it was going to pick me up and throw me."
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