Shawnee, Oklahoma (CNN) — A tornado struck just south of Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, killing at least 51 people, ripping apart homes and other buildings in populated areas. Fifty-one people have died as a result of the storm that hit the Oklahoma City area Monday, Oklahoma’s office of the chief medical examiner said.
The National Weather Service issued a rare tornado emergency for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, meaning that significant and widespread damage and fatalities were likely.
About 38,000 customers of utility OG&E are without power in metropolitan Oklahoma City after Monday afternoon’s storm hit the area, spokesman Brian Alford said. He also said the storm knocked out power to the Oklahoma City area’s Draper Water Treatment Plant. OG&E is working to restore power to the plant. City officials are asking residents to turn off their sprinkler systems and postpone washing dishes and clothes, according to a message on the city government’s website.
Video from CNN affiliates showed a funnel cloud stretching from the sky to the ground, kicking up debris.
The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, Oklahoma, in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.
Meteorologists warned residents to go underground to survive a direct hit from the tornado.
“It’s just destroying everything. There’s so many homes in the air right now. The motion on this storm is sickening,” said storm chaser Spencer Basoco.
More than 171,000 people could have been in the path of the storm.
The severe weather comes after tornadoes and powerful storms ripped through Oklahoma and the Midwest earlier Monday and on Sunday.
Forecasters had warned that the destructive weather, which killed at least two people, wasn’t over.
“Today could be potentially as dangerous as yesterday,” CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons said Monday morning, pointing to a wide swath of the country spanning from Texas to Michigan. “We’re talking about 500,000 square miles under the gun for severe weather.”