Story Summary

Oklahoma tornadoes

A tornado struck just Moore, Oklahoma, south of Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, May 20, 2013, ripping apart homes and other buildings in populated areas. 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.

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05/21/13

Getting inked for Oklahoma tornado victims

KENNER, LA (WGNO) – A Kenner couple is encouraging people to get inked for Oklahoma.

Kayce and Henri Montegut own the Electric Expressions tattoo shop on Veterans Blvd.

For the next two weeks, they plan to donate at least 10% of their sales to help the victims of the Oklahoma tornado.

They say they’re motivated by Hurricane Katrina.  Kayce and Henri spent part of their evacuation in Oklahoma where they say people could not have been more supportive and helpful.

“We would go anywhere and people would just give us things.  They wanted to help out, especially the kids.  They would just give the kids toys,” said Kayce Montegut from her shop Tuesday afternoon.  “It was just awesome.”

The Monteguts say they are waiting to see how many relief groups and assistance funds make appeals for donations before deciding where to make their contribution.

redcrossEarly Tuesday morning a team of none Red Cross volunteers from the New Orleans area headed for Oklahoma City.

They drove two trucks to the area where they plan to serve hot meals to tornado victims and emergency workers.

Cleco is also sending a crew of 34 people to the tornado ravaged area to help restore power.  Cleco executives say they are working as part of cooperative agreement with other power companies in the region.

Ground Zero, Moore, OK

CNN iReporter Rex Pace took this photo of utter destruction about an hour after the tornado hit Moore, OK on Monday, May 20th.

(CNN) — The tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburbs this week ranks among the strongest storms ever to strike the United States, packing powerful winds that topped 200 mph.

Officials from the National Weather Service gave the tornado that hit Moore on Monday a preliminary EF5 rating — the highest score on the scale that measures tornado intensities.

The Enhanced Fujita scale uses the physical damage caused by the storm to estimate how fast the wind was blowing.

Teams are still evaluating the destruction, and the rating released Tuesday is preliminary. So far, they’ve found that the tornado spanned 1.3 miles — the length of more than 22 football fields lined up end-to-end — carving a 17-mile path of destruction.

Damage assessments show that the tornado was an EF5 for at least some of the time it was ravaging the area near Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett didn’t mince words Tuesday when he described what he saw.

“We’re talking levels of debris that’s 4 feet high, as far as you can see. And we’re talking about cars that are upside-down and school books and children’s toys and trees without bark,” he said. “This was the storm of storms.”

As officials continue to assess the damage, here are CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen’s responses to some key questions about the storm:

What are EF5 storms?

Storms now used the Enhanced Fujita scale, or EF scale, which is based on damage, which than translates to estimated winds. EF5 storms are the strongest storms on Earth, with winds of over 200 mph.

How frequent are EF5 storms?

You can go years without an EF5 tornado. In fact, since 1950 this is only the 59th tornado on record that has reached that threshold.

How frequent are storms of this strength in this area?

While EF5 storms are rare, the area in the Plains known as “Tornado Alley” is a focus for when this happens. There also seems to be a focus for strong tornadoes in an area known as “Dixie Alley,” which covers parts of the Southeast and includes Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

What factors give rise to a storm of this strength?

A number of factors have to come together at the right time and place to produce a strong tornado. The clash of warm and cold air at the surface combined with lift in the atmosphere and strong winds both at the ground and high above help contribute. The greater the temperature differences and the winds, the greater the chance for supercells, or the thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.

How long does it take to assess the strength of a storm? Why does it take so long?

After a tornado, the local National Weather Service office sends a team to take a look at the damage. In this case, the Norman, Oklahoma, office sent numerous teams in the field to evaluate damage. Since this storm path was 17 miles long and the damage path was so wide, it takes time to see all of the damage.

Some people are calling this the strongest storm ever. Is that accurate?

Crews are still surveying the damage. The strongest tornado on record to date struck Moore in 1999. It had winds recorded at 318 mph at 300 feet above the earth’s surface. At the surface, officials estimated winds were at 250 mph. The estimated winds of this week’s storm are 200-210 mph, but survey teams are still evaluating. It’s safe to say this is one of the strongest tornadoes.

CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.

The people of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana are praying for the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes.

OK tornado destroys homes in it’s wake

OK tornado destroys homes in it’s wake

(CNN) — At least 24 people — including nine children — were killed when a massive tornado struck an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, officials said.

At least seven of those children were killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, police said. Emergency personnel on Tuesday continued to scour the school’s rubble — a scene of twisted I-beams and crumbled cinder blocks.

The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, KFOR reported. The preliminary rating of the tornado was at least EF4 (166 to 200 mph), the National Weather Service said.

Latest updates:

– Oklahoma officials have revised the death toll from Monday’s powerful tornado to 24, down from 51. Nine of the fatalities are children.

– State Rep. Mark McBride, a Republican who represents a district ravaged by Monday’s Oklahoma tornado, said he and his family have endured tornadoes for decades but “this is the worst thing” he’s ever seen.

Previously reported:

– President Barack Obama said he doesn’t yet know the “full extent” of the damage after a powerful tornado slammed central Oklahoma on Monday. “We don’t know both the human and economic losses that may have occurred,” he said Tuesday.

– “Oklahoma needs to get everything it needs right away” to recover from the powerful tornado, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

– Flags are expected to be lowered at the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday morning in honor of the victims of a massive tornado that struck central Oklahoma the day before, House Speaker John Boehner said.

– Out of the 51 deaths initially reported in Monday’s powerful tornado in central Oklahoma, 24 bodies have been transferred to the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s Office, the agency said Tuesday. An update from the medical examiner was expected at 11 a.m. ET.

– New York’s governor expressed his sympathy for Oklahomans in the aftermath of the “horrific tornado” that swept through the Oklahoma City region on Monday. “Here in New York we know firsthand the devastation and pain caused by natural disasters, and in difficult times like these we, more than ever, stand with our fellow Americans,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday.

– The storm system behind Monday’s twister and several on Sunday is threatening a large swath of the United States on Tuesday, putting 53 million people at risk of severe weather. In the bull’s-eye Tuesday are parts of north-central Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas and Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service.

– Oklahoma first and foremost needs donations to rebuild after tornadoes slammed the state, Gov. Mary Fallin told CNN on Tuesday.

– More than 40,000 customers remain without power Tuesday after a powerful tornado slammed the Oklahoma City region, a utility spokesman said. More than half of those customers were in the heavily damaged suburb of Moore, according to Brian Alford, a spokesman for Oklahoma Gas & Electric.

– Glenn Lewis, the mayor of tornado-ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, told CNN on Tuesday the rescue effort is continuing and “we’re very optimistic we might find one or two people.”

– Personnel have rescued 101 people from rubble in metropolitan Oklahoma City after a tornado hit the area Monday, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management representative Terri Watkins said Tuesday morning. Watkins cited an Oklahoma Highway Patrol tally of rescues from all agencies.

– Some of the children killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, during Monday’s storm drowned in a basement area there, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told CNN Tuesday morning. “My understanding, this school … Plaza Towers, they had a basement. Quite frankly, don’t mean to be graphic, but that’s why some of the children drowned, because they were in the basement area,” he said. Officials have said the storm killed at least seven children at the school.

– The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office has been told to expect about 40 additional bodies, including about 20 children, according spokeswoman Amy Elliott. The official death toll of 51 will not rise until the bodies are processed, she said earlier. The current toll already includes at least 20 children who were killed by the storm.

– At least 145 people have been hospitalized in the Oklahoma City, hospital officials said. The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center received 45 children for treatment on Monday, according Dr. Roxie Albrecht.

– Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma on Monday night, a White House statement said. The declaration means federal emergency aid will supplement local recovery efforts.

– The president told the Oklahoma governor that the federal government “stands ready to provide all available assistance” as part of the response to a series of deadly storms that have struck the Oklahoma City area, including Monday’s devastating tornado.

– World leaders, including those in France, Germany, Pakistan and Spain, passed along their condolences to President Obama and the American people. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II expressed her “deepest sympathies” to those affected and Pope Francis urged people to pray for families of those who’ve died, “especially those who lost young children.”

CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

Tornado Damage near Oklahoma City

Tornado Damage near Oklahoma City

(CNN) — At least 51 people — including at least 20 children — were killed when a massive tornado struck an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, officials said.

Seven of those children were killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, according to a police official.

Early Tuesday, emergency personnel continued to scour the school’s rubble — a scene of twisted i-beams and crumbled cinder blocks.

The tornado was estimated to be at least 2 miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, KFOR reported. Video from CNN affiliates showed a funnel cloud stretching from the sky to the ground, kicking up debris.

Latest updates:

– The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office has been told to expect about 40 additional bodies, including about 20 children, according spokeswoman Amy Elliott. The official death toll of 51 will not rise until the bodies are processed, she said. The current toll already includes at least 20 children who were killed by the storm.

– At least 145 people have been hospitalized in the Oklahoma City, hospital officials said.

– The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center received 45 children for treatment on Monday, according Dr. Roxie Albrecht.

– The threat of severe weather shifts to the southeast on Tuesday, covering parts of north Texas, southwest Arkansas and northwest Louisiana, the National Weather Service said.

– The city of Moore, Oklahoma, has no running water, Mayor Glenn Lewis told CNN on Monday evening. It was uncertain when water service would be restored.

– Texas is sending the state’s elite search and rescue team, Texas Task Force 1, to assist local officials and first responders in Oklahoma following Monday’s tornado outbreak.

– President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for Oklahoma Monday night, a White House statement said. The declaration means federal emergency aid will supplement local recovery efforts.

Previously reported:

– Storm damage has been reported in Cleveland County, which includes Moore; McClain County, which includes Newcastle; and Oklahoma County, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management representative Terri Watkins said.

– The preliminary rating of the Moore tornado is at least EF-4 (166 to 200 mph), the National Weather Service said on Monday afternoon.

– President Barack Obama told Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin the federal government “stands ready to provide all available assistance” as part of the response to a series of deadly storms that have struck the Oklahoma City area, including Monday’s devastating tornado.

A White House statement said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed a team to assist state operations, and additional personnel are ready to be dispatched as necessary. Obama told Fallin that “the people of Oklahoma” are in the first family’s “thoughts and prayers,” the statement said.

– About 38,000 customers of utility OG&E were without power in metropolitan Oklahoma City after Monday afternoon’s storm, utility spokesman Brian Alford said.

Alford 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.

– Country music star and Moore native Toby Keith said in a written statement: “This storm has devastated the community that I grew up in. I rode my bike through those neighborhoods. I have family and friends in Moore. My heart and prayers go to those that have lost so much. But Moore is strong and we will persevere. God be with you all.”

– Interstate 35 in Moore, Oklahoma, was closed as a result of debris from the tornado that hit the area Monday afternoon, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cole Hackett said. Crews were headed to the north-south highway to start the cleanup process, Hackett said.

– “People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come,” Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol, told CNN late Monday afternoon. She did not say how many people were trapped. “Send your prayers heavenward because there are people fighting for their lives.”

– The National Guard has been activated in response to the tornado, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Ann Lee said.

– Will Rogers World Airport reopened around at about 6 p.m. ET, spokeswoman Karen Carney said. All flights are delayed, and at least six flights have been canceled, she said.

– Lance West, a reporter for CNN affiliate KFOR, said people late Monday afternoon were pulling students from a classroom at an elementary school heavily damaged by the tornado that hit Moore. There are no immediate reports on the condition of the children.

– Congressman Tom Cole, who lives in Moore, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday afternoon the damage he saw on TV looks as bad as a 1999 tornado that destroyed more than 1,000 houses in his hometown.

– McClain County Undersheriff Bill Shobe reported Monday afternoon there is significant damage near Newcastle, Oklahoma. Shobe went on to say there are a lot of structures with damage north of Newcastle and in the town of Tuttle. Most of the damage is parallel to Highway 37, he said.

– Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma was evacuated after it sustained damages from the tornado, a hospital spokeswoman told CNN’s Sarah Baker. All patients are being evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Health Plex Hospital, and residents injured in the storm are being told to go to those centers as well.

– A tornado struck just Moore, Oklahoma, south of Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, ripping apart homes and other buildings in populated areas. 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.

Meteorologists warned residents to go underground to survive a direct hit from the tornado.

CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report

There’s only one way to describe this: too close for comfort! Last night a newscast from KSN-TV in Wichita, Kansas took a dramatic turn.

Anchors were warning residents about severe weather when a tornado touched down near them. Station employees took shelter but continued to talk about the danger.

An EF-1 tornado tore through the town damaging homes and buildings and downing trees and power lines.

Tornado Near Oklahoma City

Tornado Near Oklahoma City (photo from KFOR-TV)

MOORE, Oklahoma (CNN) — Rescue workers raced against time and the oncoming night Monday looking for survivors after a powerful tornado blasted an area outside of Oklahoma City, leveling homes and killing at least 51 people.

At least seven of the dead were children from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, which lay directly in the path of the monster storm’s wall of wind.

Seventy-five students and staff members had been huddled at the school when the storm hit, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.

As nightfall approached, determined searchers in hard hats dug in the debris for students possibly trapped, but authorities described the work as a recovery, not rescue, effort.

A father of a third-grader still missing sat quietly on a stool. Tears fell from his eyes as he waited for news of his son.

A temporary flight restriction was put in place over the school so that aircraft would stay away and emergency officials on the ground might hear any cries for help, said Lynn Lunsford with the Federal Aviation Administration.

After the ear-shattering howl of the killer storm subsided, survivors along the miles of destruction emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision — the remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other to make what had been a parking lot look like a junk yard. Bright orange flames flew from a structure that was blazing even as rain continued to fall.

“Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon,” Bill Bunting, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, told CNN.

“We certainly hope everyone heeded the warnings, but it’s a populated area and we just fear that not everyone may have gotten the word,” he said.

Bodies of those killed in the storm were being sent to Oklahoma’s office of the chief medical examiner, said the office’s Amy Elliott. Authorities had no immediate estimate on the number of injured.

The preliminary rating of damage created by the tornado is at least EF4 (winds 166 to 200 mph) — the second-most severe classification on a scale of zero to five — the National Weather Service said.

The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, KFOR reported.

Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, told the affilaite about the storm hitting the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses.

“It was just like the movie ‘Twister,’” he said, standing amid the debris. “There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere.”

The tornado damaged several barns and he was worried many of the animals were killed.

Hite said he did not hear any warnings or sirens.

“It was real windy and everything stopped. Being from Oklahoma, I knew that was not right.”

Twenty patients, including 12 adults and eight children, were in trauma rooms at Oklahoma University (OU) Medical Center and at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, said spokesman Scott Coppenbarger.

Injuries ranged from minor to critical.

Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma was evacuated after it sustained damage, a hospital spokeswoman said.

All patients were being evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Healthplex Hospital, and residents injured in the storm were being told to go to those centers as well.

Norman Regional Hospital and the Healthplex were treating an unspecified number of people with “signs of trauma, lacerations and broken bones,” spokeswoman Melissa Herron said.

Interstate 35 in Moore was closed as a result of debris from the tornado, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cole Hackett said. Crews were heading to the north-south highway to start the cleanup process.

“People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come,” said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol. She did not say how many people were trapped.

More than 38,000 electricity customers in Oklahoma are without power, according to local power providers.

As authorities and rescue workers struggle to get handle on the damage, NOAA’s Bunting warned the worst may be yet to come.

“These storms are going to continue producing additional tornadoes. They’ll also produce some very, very large hail, perhaps larger than the size of baseballs. We’re also concerned that there may be an enhanced and widespread damaging wind threat with storms as they merge together,” he said.

“As bad as today is, this is not over yet.”

Oklahoma resident: ‘It’s just all gone’

The severe weather came after tornadoes and powerful storms ripped through Oklahoma and the Midwest earlier Monday and on Sunday.

Forecasters had said that the destructive weather, which killed at least two people, was perhaps just a preview.

Even before Monday afternoon’s devastation, residents in areas hard hit by weekend storms were combing through rubble where their homes once stood.

“My mind is, like, blown, completely blown,” said Jessie Addington, 21, who found that few pieces of her childhood home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, were still standing Monday.

Addington, who now lives in a nearby town, said her mother huddled in the mobile home’s bathroom when the weekend storm hit. But the tornado still tossed her around like a rag doll, leaving her bruised.

When Addington arrived, she was shocked to find the neighborhood where she had lived for 17 years reduced to ruins.

“I’m feeling cheated, to be honest,” she said, “like, it’s just all gone.”

An estimated 300 homes were damaged or destroyed across Oklahoma in weekend weather, Red Cross spokesman Ken Garcia said.

Two men, both in their 70s, were confirmed dead as a result of an earlier tornado that hit Shawnee, said Elliott, the spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office.

As many as 28 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, according to the National Weather Service, with Oklahoma and Kansas the hardest hit. Some of those reports might have been of the same tornado.

A combination of factors — including strong winds and warm, moist air banging against dry air — means severe weather could continue sweeping across a wide swath of the United States for days, Petersons said.

“Keep in mind we have all the ingredients out there that we need,” she said.

Tornado watches were in effect for portions of southeastern Kansas, western and central Missouri, northwest Arkansas, central and eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Texas until 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET).

CNN’s Nick Valencia reported from Oklahoma and Dana Ford reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Gary Tuchman, Monte Plott, Catherine E. Shoichet, Phil Gast, Joe Sutton, Devon Sayers, George Howell, Sean Morris and Debra Goldschmidt contributed to this report.

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