A large, violent tornado carved a long, destructive path on the south side of Oklahoma City. Doppler radar estimates suggested that twister had the potential to produce wind gusts of 200 mph, the equivalent of an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The storm reportedly killed at least 51 people and caused extensive damage in Moore, Oklahoma, which is just south of Oklahoma City. In May, 1999 a massive tornado destroyed large parts of this town, killing 41 people.
Read below for the news as it developed Monday.
The tornado-ravaged Oklahoma community of Moore got some high-powered social media help after disaster struck Monday.
Some were searching for lost relatives. “Looking for my Aunt Iris Irwin,” read one Facebook post. “Looking for 5yo Harry,” read another.
Others, from out of town, sought ways to give.
Recovers.org, which calls itself a community-powered recovery site, was founded after a twister raced through Monson, Mass., and two sisters there – Caitria and Morgan O’Neill — saw how unprepared a traumatized community was in vital work of documenting the destruction and getting needed aid.
They joined together with an MIT student, Alvin Liang, to build tools to move rapidly to help communities in distress. Within three hours after its formation, the Moore, Okla. tornado recovery Facebook page had more than 3,000 “likes,” with links to valuable tips on how to help victims.
Here’s a little more on the O’Neill sisters and their five tips on helping people through disaster.
A release from FEMA states:
According to the National Weather Service, there continues to be a risk of severe weather this evening across areas of the southern Plains including Oklahoma and parts of Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas and severe weather is possible further north including parts of Illinois and Wisconsin.
We encourage individuals in the affected area to monitor local radio or TV stations or the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov or a NOAA weather radio for the latest information, for updated weather and emergency information, and to follow the instructions of state, local, and tribal officials. For those in areas that are forecast to be affected by severe weather, now is the time to get prepared for tornadoes and other disasters.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said in a news conference shortly before 9 p.m. that workers continue searching for survivors of Monday’s tornadoes.
“Please know, we’re working as quickly as we can,” Fallin said.
She also thanked the media for helping to warn people and track the storm.
The office of the Oklahoma state medical examiner tells The Post’s Brady Dennis that there were at least 51 people killed in Monday’s tornadoes.
“We’re sitting at 51, and the phone calls just keep coming,” Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner, said of the fatalities. “So it will keep climbing.”
The tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., was likely either a 4 or a 5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, said Russell Schneider, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, in Norman, Okla., which is just about eight miles from the path of the storm.
That is among the strongest possible ratings on the scale. Schneider told my colleague Joel Achenbach that Monday’s tornado, which was up to a mile wide, left damage indicative of a potentially major tornado.
“It’s a very wide swath of very intense damage,” Schneider said. “A large number of structures almost totally destroyed. That in and of itself is usually indicative of a violent tornado, EF4 or EF5.”
The Storm Prediction Center counted nine tornadoes Monday in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, Achenbach is reporting.
The White House released this statement on President Obama speaking with Mary Fallin, the governor of Oklahoma:
This evening the President spoke with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to express his concern for those who have been affected by the severe weather beginning last night and continuing today. While information is still coming in, the President made clear that his Administration, through FEMA, stands ready to provide all available assistance as the Governor’s team responds to the storm and that he has directed his team to ensure that they are providing available resources as the response unfolds. FEMA has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to the state emergency operations center in Oklahoma City to support state and local officials on the ground and additional personnel and resources stand ready to be dispatched as necessary. The President told Governor Fallin that the people of Oklahoma are in his and the First Lady’s thoughts and prayers and, while his team will continue to keep him updated, he urged her to be in touch directly if there were additional resources the Administration could provide.
This AP video shows a grim scene in Moore, Okla., where power lines are down, roofs litter front yards, and metal utility poles are bent sideways at 90-degree angles.
“We were pulling walls off of people,” said Thomas Earsom, a witness at the scene. “There were people crawling out from everywhere and anywhere.”
My colleague Lenny Bernstein reports that there are 20 injured people at OU Medical Center in downtown Oklahoma City. There are 12 adults and eight children with injuries that range from minor to critical, according to Bernstein.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office just shared this photo of the damage in Moore. Deputies from that office are heading to Moore to help with the rescue efforts.
— Oklahoma Co. Sheriff (@OkCountySheriff) May 20, 2013
— Oklahoma Co. Sheriff (@OkCountySheriff) May 20, 2013
“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Jayme Shelton, a spokesman for the city of Moore reached by telephone. “Send your prayers this way.”
Shelton said the city’s roughly 160 police officers and firefighters were going door to door, checking for people who might be trapped alive in the rubble. Search-and-rescue teams poured in from every corner of the state.
— Brady Dennis
CNN and several Oklahoma media outlets report that the National Guard has been activated in response to the Moore tornadoes.
In response, the official National Guard account posted:
— National Guard (@NationalGuard) May 20, 2013
These are the 10 deadliest tornadoes since 1900, according to AP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo., is the only storm to make the list within the past 60 years.
— 695 deaths. March 18, 1925, in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
— 216 deaths. April 5, 1936, in Tupelo, Miss.
— 203 deaths. April 6, 1936, in Gainesville, Ga.
— 181 deaths. April 9, 1947, in Woodward, Okla.
— 158 deaths. May 22, 2011, in Joplin, Mo.
— 143 deaths. April 24, 1908, in Amite, La., and Purvis, Miss.
— 116 deaths. June 8, 1953, in Flint, Mich.
— 114 deaths. May 11, 1953 in Waco, Tex.
— 114 deaths. May 18, 1902 in Goliad, Tex.
— 103 deaths. March 23, 1913, in Omaha, Neb.
KWTV, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, reports that all the students of Briarwood Elementary have been accounted for:
UPDATE:All kids accounted for at Briarwood Elementary school in Moore, OK.Minor injuries reported at the school.news9.com
— News 9 (@NEWS9) May 20, 2013
This accompanies earlier reports that all 4-6th graders have been accounted for from Moore’s other elementary school, Plaza Towers. There is still no reports on the K-3rd grades.
The National Weather Service reports that severe weather continues in the region surrounding Moore and Oklahoma City. There’s a very strong thunderstorm heading toward Long Grove, about an hour and a half south of Moore, with hail as big as two inches possible.
Moore Medical Center — the only hospital in Moore, Okla. — sustained severe damage during this afternoon’s storm. According to ABC’s David Muir, the hospital has begun evacuating patients to nearby hospitals.
Photos from the medical center show damage to the second floor; another photo, purportedly taken around the block from the center, shows broken branches and a destroyed car.
According to Oklahoma’s Nursing Times, an industry publication, “the endeavor to bring a hospital to Moore came after the May 3, 1999, tornado” that caused widespread devastation in the state.
KFOR’s Lance West has reported on air that “4th, 5th and 6th grade students are all accounted for” from Towers Plaza Elementary School and are at a nearby church. There’s no information yet on other grades. West also reported that, according to a teacher and a parent he spoke to, third graders are among those still being searched for in the area. The Post has not independently confirmed this report.
A White House official says that the administration is closely monitoring the storm. The President was notified by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and is being updated as information becomes available.
Looking for information on loved ones in the vicinity of the tornadoes in Oklahoma? The Red Cross has a Safe and Well database that lets people search for family and friends after incidents like the Oklahoma tornadoes. You can search for people here or list yourself if you are in the area and are okay.
An Oklahoma man named David Massey posted three short videos of the destruction in a neighborhood two miles from his home. The videos show downed power lines and flattened houses; Massey writes that he can hear trapped people yelling from the debris, though that isn’t audible in his posts.
The National Weather Service has released a preliminary map of the path cut by a tornado through the towns of Newcastle and Moore, Okla., this afternoon.
The path closely follows that of the May 3, 1999 tornado that devastated this area more than 14 years ago. While it’s too early to accurately compare the two yet, local media have said the damage is reminiscent of that storm. It injured 675 people in Oklahoma over a two-day period, according to the National Weather Service.
The tornadoes ravaging Oklahoma are reminding many of the destruction seen in May 1999.
Dozens of tornadoes tore across the state on May 3, 1999, killing 44 people and leaving hundreds injured.
The situation is particularly fraught because Monday’s storms are hitting the same areas that were damaged in 1999. Monday’s storm wreaked havoc in Moore, Okla., a city that endured severe damage during the 1999 storms. The city
You can learn more about the 1999 storms on this page The Oklahoman created to mark the 10-year anniversary.
The Associated Press is reporting that an elementary school in suburban Oklahoma City “took a direct hit” from the tornado that devastated Moore:
Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department says there is no word of injuries from the elementary school. Knight says the school suffered “extensive damage” on Monday afternoon. He did not say which school was hit.
Here’s a selection of images from on the ground in various parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, photos that only seem to scratch the surface of the destruction already wrought by these storms:
This photo of the tornado damage in Moore, Okla., drives home the scope of the damage:
The tornado that touched down in Moore, Okla. was on the ground for about 40 minutes, according to the National Weather Service in Norman.
The National Weather Service also issued a warning just a few minutes ago alerting people to extreme damage still to come. The warning urged people to head to “the closest substantial shelter” and avoid being in a mobile home, vehicle or outdoors
This Associated Press video shows the massive tornado in Oklahoma:
Anthony Quintano of NBC News posted this aerial image of Moore, Oklahoma, in the wake of the tornado:
Wide shot of the destruction in Moore, Oklahoma from KFOR twitter.com/zerwekh/status…
— Rob Zerwekh (@zerwekh) May 20, 2013
Moore, OK right now: damage as far as the eye can see, complete neighborhoods essentially missing.
— Shawn Reynolds (@WCL_Shawn) May 20, 2013
“Every house in this area (west Moore, OK) is leveled” (via KFOR-TV)
— Shawn Reynolds (@WCL_Shawn) May 20, 2013
“This school is completely gone”- KFOR chopper reporter
— Jacob Wycoff (@4cast4you) May 20, 2013
3:37pm CDT: The OKC metro tornado has just roped out and dissipated — unfortunately too late to spare large swaths of residential area.
— TWC Breaking (@TWCBreaking) May 20, 2013
— NBC Nightly News (@nbcnightlynews) May 20, 2013
PIC: Destruction at I-35 and southwest 4th Street in Moore, OK.Near Moore Medical Ctr. twitter.com/severestudios/…
— SevereStudios (@severestudios) May 20, 2013
KFOR chopper shot of massive tornado just southeast of Oklahoma City. twitter.com/WPXIScott/stat…
— Scott Harbaugh (@WPXIScott) May 20, 2013
Oh my. RT @houcivicwxguy: News9 OK reporting elementary school in Moore, OK took a direct hit from violent tornado
— Eric Berger (@chronsciguy) May 20, 2013
— Johnny Kelly (@stormchaser4850) May 20, 2013
Radar at OKC airport shows tight “hook echo” curl of tornado leaving Moore, OK. twitter.com/HerzogWeather/…
— Travis Herzog (@HerzogWeather) May 20, 2013
Moore, Okla., is the same town that was obliterated by an F5 tornado in May 1999, killing 41 people and injuring hundreds.
— USA TODAY Weather (@usatodayweather) May 20, 2013
— James Spann (@spann) May 20, 2013