Monster Oklahoma tornado kills 51

10:25 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY/WUSA9) -- A massive, mile-wide tornado with winds up to 200 mph killed at least 51 people Monday afternoon during 40 terrifying minutes of destruction across southern Oklahoma City and its suburbs.

The state medical examiner's office confirmed the number of deaths and said the toll was expected to rise. Several children were among the dead, and at least 70 others were being treated at hospitals.

Catastrophic damage was reported in Moore, where two elementary schools were destroyed, including one that took a direct hit. Several children were pulled alive from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary, but there were no immediate reports of rescues or casualties at Briarwood Elementary, about a mile away.

Three hospitals reported treating at least 120 injured, including some children rescued from the Plaza Towers school.

KFOR-TV reported that seven of the dead were children from Plaza Towers Elementary, where 75 students and staff members were huddled when the tornado struck. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who has lived in Moore for more than 50 years, told CNN the school did not have an underground shelter, just interior rooms with no windows.

At Integris Southwest Medical Center, 10 of 37 patients were in critical condition, a spokeswoman told the Associated Press. The hospital was treating five children, including two rescued from the elementary school. The OU Medical Center was treating 20 patients, including eight children.

More than 60 patients were being treated at Norman Regional Medical Center, some in critical condition, said spokeswoman Kelly Wells.

One patient was 9-year-old Kaileigh Hawkins, who was at one of the schools destroyed by the twister, Wells said. She is doing fine, but hospital officials have been unable to locate her parents.

The twister heavily damaged Moore Medical Center, ripping off its roof but causing no injuries. Staff had to relocate 30 patients to nearby Norman and another hospital.

A water treatment was knocked offline, and residents and businesses in southeastern Oklahoma City were advised to stop using water.

The preliminary rating of the tornado that hit Moore at 3:17 p.m. CT (4:17 p.m. ET) was put at EF-4, which means wind speeds from 166 to 200 mph, the National Weather Service said.

On May 3, 1999, a record-setting EF-5 tornado obliterated the city of 55,000 with winds measured at 318 mph, the highest ever on the earth's surface. The storm killed 36 people, injured hundreds, and caused about $1 billion in damages.

The National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., said a tornado warning was in effect Monday afternoon for 16 minutes before the twister developed.

Rescuers were "going house to house and block to block to try and find any survivors that are out there and trapped,'' said state emergency management spokesman Jerry Lojka.

"We can only imagine that there are still many others there that are unaccounted for,'' he said.

Lojka said emergency management officials were working from an underground command center in Oklahoma City and did not yet know how many students were in the two elementary schools in Moore that were destroyed.

The National Weather Service said it was tracking "a large and extremely dangerous tornado'' just west of Moore, The storm was moving to the northeast, and forecasters said they expected "large, destructive hail up to tennis ball size.''

Video aired by KFOR-TV showed a massive, dark funnel-shaped cloud over the area and, later, scenes of massive destruction. Entire neighborhoods were flattened.

If you have family or want to help the victims impacted by the Tornado, you can do so through American Red Cross. CLICK here to go their page. 

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