School districts in Oklahoma sent students home early this afternoon, hoping they would get there before tornadoes, 4-inch hail, and 80-mph winds caused serious damage and injury, the Associated Press reports.
Tornado watches were issued for 40 counties in the state, and News-9 in Oklahoma City reported a few observed touchdowns in the state. From the National Weather Service:
Tornado Watch 109 remains valid until midnight CDT tonight for the following areas in Oklahoma. This Watch includes 40 counties in central Oklahoma: … This Watch includes 6 counties in northern Texas: …
The Weather Channel also reported touchdowns in Indiana and large hail in Missouri, along with a radar-confirmed tornado touchdown just west of St Louis.
“It’s certainly possible we could see several tornadoes during the day on Tuesday,” CNN quoted Bill Bunting, chief of operations at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, as saying. “Some of them do have the potential to be strong—an EF-2 or greater, which is winds over 110 mph, strong enough to cause structural damage to well-built homes.”
As of 2 PM local time, ABC News reported, schools in large sections of Kansas had canceled classes and extracurricular activities. Wichita State University closed all of its locations and canceled sporting events scheduled for Tuesday evening. Schools and other organizations across the state also canceled many after-school or evening activities.
Weather Underground observed that about 35 million people were in the path of severe storms.
Some school districts didn’t even wait till the afternoon, as Mid-Del Public Schools in the Oklahoma City suburb of Midwest City called off classes before 7 AM, saying that the safety and security of students and staff was the top priority. A deadly twister in 2013 killed seven schoolchildren in the town of Moore, Oklahoma, prompting school districts to revise and rehearse tornado drills and emergency release and closure procedures.