Sunday tornado damages downtown

Robert Smith

A Sunday evening tornado hit the western Osage County community of Fairfax, knocking out power and damaging buildings.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed State Highway 18 through Fairfax at 8:10 p.m. Sunday, helping with traffic control and providing an initial assessment of what had happened.

“There was damage to a two square block area from a tornado this evening,” according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “There were very minor injuries reported and no fatalities. State Highway 18 remains closed both northbound and southbound due to downed power lines and debris in the roadway. Oklahoma Department of Transportation risk manager is on scene. The town’s hospital and nursing home are without power at this time and the backup generators are also down at this time.”

The OHP added the American Red Cross was on its way to Fairfax.

By 2:27 a.m. Monday, the OHP was able to reopen SH18.

“Roadway is now back open and electricity has been restored to the hospital and the nursing home. All units have cleared the scene,” the OHP said.

Jerry Roberts, director of Osage County Emergency Management, worked through the night in Fairfax and reported Monday afternoon that the National Weather Service had determined the weather event that caused damage in the town of about 1,300 people was indeed a tornado — a high-end F-Zero with winds of about 90-100 mph.

Roberts said some 35 buildings in the downtown area were damaged, and the damage ranged from broken windows to total losses. He clarified he couldn’t yet say how many buildings would be total losses, but he anticipated there would be several.

As of Monday afternoon, Roberts said several people were still without electricity, but the number was small. No one was without water or other services to his knowledge.

Restaurants and other businesses had resumed operations, he said.

In remarks Tuesday morning to the Osage County Board of Commissioners, Roberts added details. The storm was on the ground for four minutes and was about 225 yards wide, he said.

Fairfax also had a severe weather event in May, which weather experts determined was the result of straight-line winds.