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New twisters kill 9 in tornado-traumatized Oklahoma

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UNION CITY, Oklahoma (CNN) -- The full scale of the destruction wrought by five new tornadoes that plowed through the Oklahoma City area will become apparent only in the light of day Saturday.

Friday evening's twisters killed at least nine people, less than two weeks after a monstrous tornado made rubble of the town of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

"We really needed a break after last (week), and there's just no rest," said city spokeswoman Kristy Yager.

In all, 17 tornadoes were reported in the Midwest. The number was expected to change when officials conduct storm surveys, said Kurt Van Speybroeck, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

And while the twisters damaged houses in Missouri and Illinois, the brunt of its force was reserved for Oklahoma City and its surrounding areas, including El Reno and Union City.

Among the nine reported deaths were a mother and her child, officials said.

At least 71 others were injured.

The storm system swatted down power lines and uprooted trees, flicked big rigs on their sides, and yanked off part of the terminal roof at Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport.

One twister tore open Kris Meritt's parents' brick house like a carton, sucking out its contents and tossing most of them onto the lawn.

It spared the walls and part of the roof, then moved on to raze the house next door.

The parents returned to survey the damage, but rushed off when another tornado was headed their way.

"It's a sombering thing to think about life, and to see all your memories just tossed about," Merritt said. "Everything from your childhood on up."

In Moore, the storm system affected residents still picking up the pieces from the previous disaster.

"There's damage everywhere," Moore's Mayor Glenn Lewis told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Most of his already devastated town was blacked out. The flooded streets made it hard for him to drive the town to search for new ruins among the old ones.

"I can't even get home to see if my house is OK," he said.

Motorized panic

Though the tornadoes were not as strong as the EF-5 twister that killed 24 people on May 20, fear drove some people into their cars to flee, ignoring warnings not to drive.

Officials described parts of Interstates 35 and 40 near Oklahoma City as "a parking lot."

"People were actually driving southbound in the northbound lanes to try and get out of the way," said storm chaser Dave Holder.

Those who stayed put ducked for cover.

Players competing in the NCAA women's softball championship in Oklahoma City rode out the storm in an underground garage.

Passengers at Will Rogers sought shelter in the airport's basement. A power outage and debris on the runway had forced the airport to cancel all flights.

The lights flickered back on early Saturday but all morning departures were canceled, spokeswoman Karen Carney said.

City flooded

Once the tornadoes had passed, Oklahomans faced a new threat: floods.

Heavy rains hosed Oklahoma City, with eight to 11 inches drenching the metro area, Yager said.

One inch of flood water pooled on the first floor of City Hall, and apartments in low-lying areas of town were hit harder.

"We've seen widespread flooding throughout the entire 621 square miles," she said.

Flooding stranded five empty city buses and some motorists.

"We saw flooding in areas that we don't see flooding," said police Lt. Jay Barnett. "We were overwhelmed."

Widespread trouble

The impact of the tornadoes wasn't limited to Oklahoma. More than 212,000 customers were without power across the Midwest early Saturday.

In Illinois, the roof flew off a school gymnasium in Macoupin County. About 25 to 30 homes were damaged, officials said.

In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, as the storm front moved into his state, stripping sidings and roofs off homes.

Portions of more than 200 roads in the state were closed due to flooding, the state transportation department said.

And Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was closed for four hours so that debris could be removed from the runway. It reopened early Saturday.

Moore traumatized

In Moore, the howls of civil defense sirens sent storm-weary residents scrambling again.

Candace Looper retreated to her windowless laundry room with her cat, and stacked couch pillows on top of her.

"I've been praying, and I've been singing the 'Lord's Prayer' and singing 'Amazing Grace,' so I'm OK," she told CNN.

LaDonna Cobb and her husband, Steve, were with their children at their school on May 20, when the wide tornado demolished the building.

The photo of Steve carrying one of their daughters, with Cobb looking to him with blood in her face, emerged as a symbol of Moore's suffering and resilience.

Friday's tornadoes drove them into a shelter and put fear into their hearts again.

"We're pretty scared here. We're terrified," Cobb told CNN's Piers Morgan.

Going through a second tornado was particular unsettling for their children.

"They were not handling it very well. They were pretty upset," Cobb said.

Once the fury passed, Lewis, the city mayor, rode around town in his pickup truck.

"This is unbelievable that it could possibly even hit again," he said.

"We just started picking up (debris) two days ago."

Saturday morning, they'll start all over again.

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