(CNN/PIX11) — What had been an unusually quiet storm season broke out with a vengeance Wednesday, slashing across Oklahoma and killing one person.
A reported tornado ravaged a mobile home park, destroying dozens of trailers just west of Tulsa in the suburb of Sand Springs.
“It looks like there’s been a little war zone around here,” Tammi Hart told CNN affiliate KTUL.
The storm flattened a Sand Spring gymnastics studio, where 60 children and adults were huddled underground.
“We were just in the middle of practice and the sirens started going off and we just had to get all the kids to the basement,” said instructor Kelsey Haggard, who said she heard a “big boom” when the building was hit.
In addition to the death at the mobile home park, KTUL reported two other people were taken to the hospital in critical condition. Dozens more were injured, authorities said.
The storm slammed into the Tulsa area after the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning. A confirmed, “extremely dangerous” tornado was spotted near Sand Springs, moving east at 45 mph, the weather service said. The tornado warning included downtown Tulsa.
Large, damaging hail the size of baseballs and hurricane-force winds were part of the forecast.
Hope amid tragedy
When the storm passed and shaken residents emerged, some found hope amid the destruction.
Chase Rhodes snapped a photo near 119th Street and Western Avenue in Oklahoma City of a power pole that has been snapped at the bottom but hung suspended in the air by power lines, forming the shape of a cross.
“God is with us,” Rhodes wrote.
A resident in Tipton, Janice Flajsinger-Witt, spotted redemption in the storm clouds, capturing what looks like hands in the sky. That photo has been dubbed the “Hand of God” by some viewers.
Until Wednesday, there hadn’t been a single report of a tornado in the United States during March.
CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said there were preliminary reports of seven tornadoes on Wednesday. An average year would produce 80 twisters during the month, he said.
March is typically a transitional month, where warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cold Arctic air to produce severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
This year, however, the jet stream pattern responsible for all the cold air and snow in the East had remained stuck in more of a winter mode.
But that changed this week as an Arctic cold front began crashing to the south, bringing together the stormy mix.