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Tornadoes Rip Oklahoma; Floods Still Menace Texas

From Times Wire Services

A tornado pulverized a path across Stillwater, Okla., leaving a 4-year-old boy dead as it smashed cars, blew away roofs and drove wooden planks from shredded rafters 2 and 3 feet deep into yards.

Along with the tornadoes, torrential rain, hail and floods struck the nation’s midsection, while Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana kept fighting roiling floodwaters, the National Weather Service reported Wednesday.

Eight people were injured in the Stillwater tornado late Tuesday and more than 200 homes and businesses destroyed or damaged. More than 200 people were evacuated from homes and from where power lines on the ground posed a threat, said Stillwater Police Lt. Kirk Mittelstet.

A tornado also struck near Foyil in northeastern Oklahoma, injuring eight people and damaging 10 homes. Gov. Henry Bellmon promised he would seek federal disaster aid.

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Mittelstet said some looting had been reported. Police and a National Guard unit cordoned off 1 square mile with the heaviest damage in Stillwater. Only residents, authorities and the media were allowed in.

In Missouri, 275 residents were evacuated in Kansas City as the swollen Blue River spilled over its banks. Storms dropped up to 3 inches of rain at Lockwood, about 25 miles northwest of Springfield. Southwestern Missouri was under a flash-flood watch and more storms were expected, said Jim Lee, weather service specialist.

Heavy rain flooded residential areas in Champaign, Ill., and University of Illinois student Mark Drendel reported up to 3 feet of water in places. “It looks like a river more than anything. Cars are under water.”

In the South, flooding from the Red River reached Louisiana, after inundating thousands of acres in Arkansas and Texas. Flooding from the Red River forced about 400 people in Shreveport, La., to evacuate low-lying homes and a number of roads were under water.

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Midway between Alexandria and Shreveport, the Red River was up to a mile wide.

In other spots, horses and cattle huddled on small islands amid the flooding.

In sections where flooding appeared imminent, levees were reinforced with extra dirt then covered with plastic sheeting and more sandbags.

In flood-stricken South Texas, the Trinity River Authority released a record 88,000 cubic feet of water per second through the floodgates at Lake Livingston Dam toward the Gulf of Mexico to relieve a Trinity River swollen in places to 10 miles wide.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency extended a presidential disaster area Wednesday to four more Texas counties, bringing the total to 33 counties eligible for government assistance because of severe weather and flooding since April 15.

Liberty County officials warned holdout residents in low areas along the Trinity to join about 7,000 others who have evacuated in the past two weeks.

Among the holdouts are Joe and Annie Loftin, who fished from the porch of their new stilt home as water crept to their steps and soaked the net of a basketball hoop on a nearby cottonwood tree.

“Somebody better pull the plug, my St. Augustine grass has done been watered,” Joe Loftin said.

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