|By Shaun Epperson, Tulsa World, Okla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 3, 2006 - --A small tornado touched down Saturday night at Tulsa International Airport, extensively damaging a hotel and dozens of vehicles, and pivoting a few regional jets on the ground, officials said.
No serious injuries were reported.
"It damaged some aircraft, and there was some minor damage to the terminal, but the biggest problem was the hotel and the parking lot," said an airport spokeswoman, Mary Smith.
The small twister briefly touched down just south of the airport, near Oklahoma 11. It stayed on the ground for only a matter of seconds, said Steve Piltz, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The Radisson Inn-Tulsa Airport, 2201 N. 77th East Ave., sustained much of the damage.
The roof was ripped from several rooms, and as many as 200 guests had to be moved out, said Kevin Roberts, the regional director of operations for Hospitality Management Corp., which operates the hotel.
"We had about three or four rooms that the roof was torn off of," Roberts said. "There were cars in the front parking lot and the back parking lot that were damaged."
Roberts said an entire wing of the hotel and at least 10 vehicles were damaged.
Sheryl Janis of Edmond was staying at the hotel with her daughter and others who were in town for a girls' soccer tournament.
"We went to bed around 10:30, and we woke up around 11:30 or 11:45 to what I thought was an airplane crashing into the building," she said. "We heard a huge boom and saw a flash of light, and I immediately grabbed my daughter and threw her to the floor."
David Folks, also of Edmond, said the experience was "surreal."
"I was awakened by falling concrete," he said. "All of it (the roof) was gone in our room."
Folks said he wasn't sure at first what was happening and didn't immediately realize that the roof had been blown off, even though rain was pouring in.
"I was a little dazed, and I didn't know what was going on," he said. "It took me a minute to figure out what was happening."
Folks said he was cut on the head by debris.
His daughter, Reagan, 10, said she was frightened when she awoke to the scene in their room.
"I woke up and just started screaming to see if my dad would answer," she said. "I walked into the bathroom and looked at his face, and you could see the blood."
Roberts said that after the hotel's guests were accounted for, they were relocated to the Southern Hills Marriot and the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport.
The Radisson was shut down, and Roberts said he wasn't sure when it will reopen.
Some wings of the hotel might be reopened next week, he said.
In addition to tearing through the hotel, the storm damaged dozens of vehicles in the airport's parking garage, officials said.
Smith said at least 75 cars were damaged -- many with shattered windows -- and that the canopy over the garage's upper level was ripped apart.
Some terminal windows were cracked on Concourse A, and four regional jets on the ground were whipped around by the winds, Smith said. She could not say how badly the planes were damaged or whether they were occupied.
Piltz said severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in Osage County about 10:30 p.m., and warnings were issued throughout the metropolitan area until midnight.
Piltz said no tornado warning was issued because the tornado -- which he speculated to be an F1 on the intensity scale -- didn't necessarily appear on radar as a tornado and vanished before a warning could have been issued.
"It was a really small, brief tornado," he said. "There was no way to know exactly what we had and to give anyone a heads-up with any kind of useful time frame."
EMSA officials said four people at the hotel reported minor injuries, but none of them was taken to a hospital.
The weather service said the official amount of rainfall at the airport was .53 inches for Saturday and early Sunday.
Shaun Epperson 581-8369 firstname.lastname@example.org
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