Tornado emergency in Moore, Okla.

May 20, 2013

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.

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Sisters, once tornado victims, create social media for Moore

The tornado-ravaged Oklahoma community of Moore got some high-powered social media help after disaster struck Monday.

The group Recovers.org quickly set up a web page and a Facebook page to identify shelters, reunite families and post food aid.

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.

Severe weather to continue this evening

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.

Gov. Fallin: “We’re working as quickly as we can”

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.

At least 51 killed, according to state medical examiner’s office

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.”

AP: 37 killed, death toll expected to rise

The Associated Press is reporting that 37 people were killed, citing the state medical examiner’s office. Officials also noted that the death toll is expected to rise.

Tornado was either an EF-4 or EF-5

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.

Pres. Obama speaks with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

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.

Video of tornado aftermath

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.”

Treating injuries that range from minor to critical

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.

Photos from Plaza Towers Elementary rescue


A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

A woman carries an injured child to a triage center near the Plaza Towers Elementary School. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

A child is pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School.(AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

Onlookers watch as children are pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

A woman is pulled out from under tornado debris at the Plaza Towers School.(AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

A child calls to his father after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

A boy is pulled from beneath a collapsed wall at the Plaza Towers Elementary School. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma City Sheriff’s Office sends help

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.

Moore police, firefighters going door to door

“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

National Guard activated

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:

Shelters open in Oklahoma City area

Several shelters have been set up in the Oklahoma City area after Monday’s storms, News 9 in Oklahoma City is reporting.

Video: House burning in Oklahoma

From the Associated Press:

Television footage shows flattened buildings and at least one fire after a mile-wide tornado tore through the Oklahoma City area. Homes and buildings in Moore, Okla., were reduced to rubble and vehicles littered roadways.

The 10 deadliest U.S. tornadoes

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.

Briarwood Elementary kids safe

KWTV, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, reports that all the students of Briarwood Elementary have been accounted for:

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.

Report: At least four killed in Moore

An NBC News affiliate in Oklahoma City is reporting that there were at least four people killed in Moore, including a mother and a baby:

Severe weather continues south of Moore

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.

In addition, there’s a large thunderstorm nearby on Interstate 35 and a tornado warning for Jefferson County not far from there, according to the National Weather Service.

Timelapse tornado video

WMCTV Action News 5 in Memphis Tennessee put together this time-lapse video of a tornado touching down in Oklahoma today.

Photo of Moore Medical Center

Dana Hertneky, a reporter with News 9 in Oklahoma City, tweeted this photo of Moore Medical Center. The facility “took a direct hit,” according to Hertneky.

Patients evacuated from Moore Medical Center

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.

Update on Towers Plaza Elementary School

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.

NWS: Moore tornado ‘at least’ EF-4

The National Weather Service in Norman is reporting that the tornado in Moore and Newcastle on Monday was “at least” an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

White House monitors Oklahoma storms

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.

Check in with Red Cross database

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.

Three videos from an ‘obliterated’ neighborhood

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.

Map of Moore, Okla. tornado path

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.

Looking back at May 1999 tornadoes

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.

AP: Elementary school ‘took a direct hit’

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.

 

Photos of tornado and debris

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:

What remains of a daycare in Moore, Okla.

This photo of the tornado damage in Moore, Okla., drives home the scope of the damage:

Tornado possible near Ryan, Sugden


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The National Weather Service is now warning that a storm could produce a tornado near Ryan and Sugden, which are about two hours south of Oklahoma City.

Moore tornado on the ground for 40 minutes

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

VIDEO: Tornado touches down south of Oklahoma City

This Associated Press video shows the massive tornado in Oklahoma:

House fire after tornado

Anthony Quintano of NBC News posted this aerial image of Moore, Oklahoma, in the wake of the tornado:

Images of the destruction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related gallery:

Related link: Severe weather likely today in central U.S. after Sunday’s destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma

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Jason Samenow · May 20, 2013