UPDATE: Oklahoma tornadoes leave 4 people dead, 3 children injured

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 7:26 p.m. CDT; updated 7:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY — Four people were killed and three children were critically injured Tuesday when a series of tornadoes rolled through Oklahoma City and its suburbs during rush hour, authorities said.

Canadian County emergency director Jerry Smith said two people died when the storm hit El Reno and Piedmont in his county just west of Oklahoma City. He did not have details of how the people died.

Two storms raked the southern side of the city — in the same area hit May 3, 1999, by the strongest tornado ever recorded.

Spokeswoman Lara O'Leary of the region's Emergency Medical Service Authority said three children suffered major injuries at Piedmont. She said there had been some type of gas explosion near El Reno and that emergency workers were dispatched.

The storms began about 3 p.m. in western Oklahoma and followed tracks greater than 40 miles into the state capital. State offices and a number of businesses let their workers go home hours earlier so they could be out of harm's way.

Interstate 40 was closed west of the city as the storm crossed the roadway near suburban El Reno, and state police were checking reports of damage at a home.

Another tornado touched down in the rural Oklahoma town of Canton, and search dogs were called out to find survivors. There were no immediate reports of injuries there.

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