A monstrous tornado at least a half-mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, Monday, May 20, 2013, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds up to 200 mph. At least 24 people were killed, including at least seven children, and those numbers were expected to climb.
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Rescuers have pulled several children from the rubble of a school in an Oklahoma City suburb after a monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide with winds up to 200 mph roared through Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on the elementary school.
The storm laid waste to scores of buildings in Moore, south of the city. Block after block of the community lay in ruins. Homes were crushed into piles of broken wood. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside. The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister.
Authorities expected the death toll to rise as emergency crews moved deeper into the hardest-hit areas. More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 70 children.
The storm seemed to blow neighborhoods apart instantly, scattering shards of wood and pieces of insulation across the scarred landscape. The same suburb was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth’s surface.
A child calls to his father after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school.
Many land lines to stricken areas were down and cellphone traffic was congested. The storm was so massive that it will take time to establish communications between rescuers and state officials, the governor said.
Rescue workers dig through the rubble of a collapsed wall at the Plaza Tower Elementary School to free trapped students in Moore, Okla., following a tornado Monday, May 20, 2013.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations and activated extra highway patrol officers. Fallin also spoke with President Barack Obama, who offered the nation’s help and gave Fallin a direct line to his office.
A boy is pulled from beneath a collapsed wall at the Plaza Towers Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as half a mile (1.6 kilometer) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on the elementary school.
At Plaza Towers Elementary School, the storm tore off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal. Children from the school were among the dead, but several students were pulled alive from the rubble. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain to the triage center in the parking lot.
Monday’s powerful tornado loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999. The weather service estimated that the storm that Monday’s tornado was at least a half-mile wide. The 1999 storm had winds clocked at 300 mph. Kelsey Angle, a weather service meteorologist in Kansas City, Mo., said it’s unusual for two such powerful tornadoes to track roughly the same path. Monday’s devastation in Oklahoma came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more.
A teacher hugs a child at Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school.