Death Toll In Oklahoma Rises To 16; Hunt For 6 Missing Continues

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The wreckage of a vehicle used by storm chasers is loaded onto a flatbed truck at the intersection of 10th and Radio in Canadian County, near El Reno, Oklahoma on Sunday, June 02, 2013. Storm chasers Tim and Paul Samaras and Carl Young were killed chasing a tornado on Friday night. The intersection is being […]

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(CNN) — Oklahoma had barely started clearing the rubble from a monstrous tornado two weeks ago when another rash of twisters plowed through this ill-fated swath of Tornado Alley.

At least 16 people are dead across the state after a vicious storm tore through the area Friday evening, Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said Monday morning.

That number may continue to rise.

Authorities will resume their search Monday for six people still missing, including four who sought shelter in storm drains, Bryant said.

The storms left not only a trail of death and destruction — it also sent floodwaters surging. And the damage wasn’t confined to Oklahoma.

In Missouri, a twister left over 10 miles of significant damage “that caused dozens and dozens of houses to be literally blown up,” Gov. Jay Nixon said.

No one was killed in that tornado, but three people drowned in Missouri, Nixon said.

And in Arkansas, flooding killed at least four people — a sheriff’s deputy, a wildlife officer and two women they were trying to save from a deluged home, officials said. The house collapsed in the middle of the rescue attempt, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens said.

The flash flooding that accompanied Friday night’s storm swept some bodies up to five miles downstream, Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Marc Woodard said.

Two parents and a young child who sought refuge in a storm drain were among those killed.

Samuel Cifuentes, his wife, Florinda Santos, and their 5-year-old son, Alex Cifuentes, died in the Oklahoma storm, said Byron Cifuentes, Samuel’s brother.

Officials had been searching for the three family members in a storm drain after the family had sought shelter from the storm on Friday. Oklahoma City officials were not able to confirm the identities or where the three bodies were recovered.

Three storm chasers killed

A trio of storm chasers who devoted their lives to hunting powerful storms died in the middle of a pursuit.

Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young were killed Friday while chasing a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma, relatives told CNN on Sunday. Their work tracking tornadoes was featured on the former Discovery Channel show “Storm Chasers.”

At the intersection where authorities believe the men were killed, crews hauled away a mangled white truck that had been crushed like a tin can. The metal frame of their storm-chasing vehicle was twisted almost beyond recognition.

“They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they loved,” Jim Samaras wrote in a statement posted on his brother’s Facebook page.

Friday’s tornado took a sudden turn that surprised many observers, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

“It was a wobbler. And it was big. … I think the left-hand turn made a big difference on how this thing was chased as well and why people were killed and why people were injured in their vehicles,” he said. “A vehicle is not a place to be in any tornado, especially a big one like that, and those men doing their job, those field scientists out there doing their jobs, were killed in the process.”

Tim Samaras founded TWISTEX, the Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, to help learn more about tornadoes and increase lead time for warnings, according to the TWISTEX website.

Samaras had received 18 grants from the National Geographic Society for his research, said Terry Garcia, the organization’s executive vice president of missions.

Doug Kiesling, a fellow storm chaser, said the three men were bona fide researchers.

“A lot of times the storm spotters out there serve a very valuable purpose. They give ground truth to what meteorologists from the National Weather Service are doing,” he said. “But seeing it in person, seeing it for real, and giving that real time information, I think really supplements the warning. It helps people take shelter ahead of time.”

CNN’s Jackie Castillo, Jake Carpenter, Janet DiGiacomo, Dave Alsup, David Ruff and Stan Wilson contributed to this report.

By Catherine E. Shoichet, Holly Yan and Marlena Baldacci

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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