10 businesses in Tulsa condemned following tornado damage

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Ten businesses in a shopping district of Tulsa were so badly damaged by a tornado that they have been condemned, including TGI Fridays and Whataburger restaurants where several people were injured, city officials said Monday.

Notices were posted by city inspectors prohibiting 10 commercial structures located in the Highland Plaza district from being occupied or used following the tornado early on Sunday morning, just hours after many had closed in the busy midtown area. The businesses are AT&T and Woodcraft stores, AspenDental, Panera, CarTec, Whataburger, TGI Fridays, The Flame Broiler, Vintage Stock and H&R Block.

Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman Kelli Bruer said Sunday that the ambulance company transported a total of 13 people to area hospitals, eight from the TGI Fridays restaurant, which lists its closing time as 1 a.m., four from a 24-hour Whataburger restaurant, and one person who was in the area. The National Weather Service said the tornado struck at 1:19 a.m.

One of the most severely injured was in TGI Fridays and the other was inside the Whataburger, Bruer said.

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Allan Chaney, owner of Woodcraft, said the tornado toppled walls and destroyed some of the roof of the store specializing in woodworking tools and supplies.

“The tornado took out about a third of our store,” Chaney said. He said a cinder block wall at the rear of the store and two interior walls were knocked over.

“All of our inventory is knocked all over the place,” Chaney said. “We will hopefully be able to retrieve about 50 percent of it.”

Chaney said he hopes to be back in business by Nov. 1 to take advantage of the holiday shopping season.

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“Woodworking is a winter sport,” he said. Three-fourths of the store’s sales occur in November, December, January and February.

“We really need those four months,” Chaney said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bart Haake said two other tornadoes touched down Sunday morning, an EF1 tornado in the southeast Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, and an EF1 near Oologah, about 20 miles northeast of Tulsa.

No injuries were reported from the last two twisters.

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Roger Jolliff, director of the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, said that 173 businesses and 25 homes were damaged by the EF2 twister. Two trees fell on a home that was destroyed and nine others sustained major damage. Emergency managers said at least four businesses were destroyed and 71 sustained major damage.

Officials said the tornado that struck Tulsa had wind speeds of 120-130 mph and also damaged power poles and trees. The other twisters had winds of 90-100 mph.

St. Francis Hospital spokeswoman Lauren Landwerlin says about 30 people were treated at the hospital, including three in “non-critical” condition.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum toured the damaged area Monday and said the city was lucky that the storm hit a mostly commercial district when businesses were closed instead of centering on a residential area.

“The timing of it definitely helped, and we are very fortunate,” Bynum said.