Huge tornado hits Oklahoma City suburb - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Huge tornado hits Oklahoma City suburb

By TIM TALLEY, Associated Press

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - A monstrous tornado at least a half-mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, 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 51 people were killed, and officials said the death toll was expected to rise. The storm laid waste to scores of buildings in Moore, a community of 41,000 people south of the city. Block after block 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.

More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 70 children.

Rescuers launched a desperate rescue effort at the school, pulling children from heaps of debris and carrying them to a triage center.

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.

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.

In video of the storm, the dark funnel cloud could be seen marching slowly across the green landscape. As it churned through the community, the twister scattered shards of wood, pieces of insulation, awnings, shingles and glass all over the streets.

Volunteers and first responders raced to search the debris for survivors.

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.

James Rushing, who lives across the street from the school, heard reports of the approaching tornado and ran to the school, where his 5-year-old foster son, Aiden, attends classes. Rushing believed he would be safer there.

"About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart," he said.

The students were placed in the restroom.

Douglas Sherman drove two blocks from his home to help rescue survivors.

"Just having those kids trapped in that school, that really turns the table on a lot of things," he said.

Tiffany Thronesberry said she got an alarming call from her mother, Barbara Jarrell, after the tornado.

"I got a phone call from her screaming, `Help! Help! I can't breathe. My house is on top of me!'" Thronesberry said.

Thronesberry hurried to her mother's house, where first responders had already pulled her out. Her mother was hospitalized for treatment for cuts and bruises.

Search and rescue efforts were to continue throughout the night.

Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said downed power lines and open gas lines posed a risk in the aftermath of the system.

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.

It was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998. A twister also struck in 2003.

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.

That May 22, 2011, tornado was the deadliest in the United States since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Before Joplin, the deadliest modern tornado was June 1953 in Flint, Mich., when 116 people died.

 

  • Today's Local News HeadlinesToday's Local NewsMore>>

  • Wednesday's Weather: High temps in the upper 70s to mid 80s

    Wednesday's Weather: High temps in the upper 70s to mid 80s

    Wednesday, May 24 2017 6:40 AM EDT2017-05-24 10:40:37 GMT

    Weather Outlook for Wednesday, May 24th

    Weather Outlook for Wednesday, May 24th

  • City council appoints new members to LGC

    City council appoints new members to LGC

    Tuesday, May 23 2017 11:26 PM EDT2017-05-24 03:26:42 GMT
    Eddy Sauer and Howard Smith will serve as voting members on the LGC board / Source: KFDAEddy Sauer and Howard Smith will serve as voting members on the LGC board / Source: KFDA
    The group tasked with building the MPEV, Embassy Suites Hotel and downtown parking garage now has two new members who are ready to work on those major downtown Amarillo projects. Before Tuesday evening, three of the seven voting spots on the Local Government Corporation (LGC) board were empty. The group barely had enough people to meet a quorum. The first request made by the new city council last week was to fill the two council member spots on the board as soon as possible. Counc...
    The group tasked with building the MPEV, Embassy Suites Hotel and downtown parking garage now has two new members who are ready to work on those major downtown Amarillo projects. Before Tuesday evening, three of the seven voting spots on the Local Government Corporation (LGC) board were empty. The group barely had enough people to meet a quorum. The first request made by the new city council last week was to fill the two council member spots on the board as soon as possible. Counc...
  • Abandoned at Birth

    Abandoned at Birth

    Tuesday, May 23 2017 11:21 PM EDT2017-05-24 03:21:57 GMT

    A baby left in a dumpster in the first hours of his life has recovered and is getting ready to celebrate his third birthday. 

    A baby left in a dumpster in the first hours of his life has recovered and is getting ready to celebrate his third birthday. 

Powered by Frankly