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Emergency Management: Tulsa tornado was out of city before we could send warning

The National Weather Service confirmed Sunday that preliminary damage reports suggest an EF2 struck midtown Tulsa around 1:25 a.m. and moved quickly into Broken Arrow. (KTUL)

The Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency says an EF2 tornado that touched down in Tulsa overnight was gone before the city could send out a warning to citizens.

The National Weather Service confirmed Sunday that preliminary damage reports suggest an EF2 struck midtown Tulsa around 1:25 a.m. and moved quickly into Broken Arrow. There have been extensive reports of damage in areas between 41st and 51st near Yale and Sheridan, including damaged businesses and homes, downed power poles and lines and more. Thirteen people were taken to the hospital, but none had serious injuries.

GALLERY | Storm damage in midtown Tulsa

Roger Joliff, director of the TAEMA, said there were no indicators that there would be any tornado threat in the storm system that moved through Tulsa overnight. Emergency management officials were regularly communicating with the National Weather Service as the storm came through, but the spin-up started near 41st and Yale without any warning.

Joliff said the tornado was an "exceptionally fast-moving storm" and developed between radar scans. When he got a warning about the tornado from the National Weather Service, he said he called the NWS to confirm. By the time he had confirmed the tornado and was ready to sound the alarms, the tornado had already moved into Broken Arrow, Joliff said.

While the city could have sounded the sirens as soon as the warning went out from the National Weather Service, Joliff said he called to confirm because emergency management officials have heard complaints from citizens in the past about over-warning and false alarms. He said officials do not want citizens to ignore future warnings because of repeated false alarms.

Broken Arrow emergency management officials had enough warning to sound their sirens, Joliff said.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement posted to Facebook that the tornado was sudden and unexpected, and the city will review its technology and protocols for using the emergency sirens in the future.

"We will make whatever improvements need to be made to best protect Tulsans," Bynum wrote.

The city is asking people to avoid the damaged areas as crews work to assess power and gas lines. Street and stormwater crews are working to remove downed trees and debris from roadways and are making their way east from 41st and Harvard.

Around 15,000 people were without power following the storm, but PSO says that number is now under 4,000.

MORE | I-44 narrowed, ramps closing near 41st Street in Tulsa due to storm damage

Police are also issuing a warning to residents about anyone assessing damage that does not belong to their home insurance companies.

"Residents are encouraged to contact their insurance company for damages and not provide financial or personal information to individuals coming door-to-door," the city said in the release.

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