A massive tornado roared through Moore and south Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, grinding up neighborhoods and ravaging at least one elementary school in its path.
Terror quickly spread as the Emergency Medical Services Authority rushed ambulances to Briarwood Elementary School in the Moore School District and to several homes, businesses and intersections in response to reports of multiple injuries.
Parents of children could be seen rushing toward the school, dodging downed power lines and scattered debris.
The tornado, which preliminary data suggests was a Level 4 storm on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, is said to have been two miles wide, with winds stronger than one hundred and seventy miles per hour. As it ripped through Moore and other suburbs of Oklahoma City, it left a wretched trail of massive devastation in its wake.
In addition to ravaging Briarwood Elementary School, the tornado also shredded apart Plaza Towns Elementary School. At least seventy-five children were inside Plaza Towns at the time it was hit. The building was reduced to rubble.
Thirty-seven people have been confirmed dead by the state medical examiner’s office. The actual number of casualties may rise as more bodies are found. Survivors are still being pulled out of the debris of destroyed buildings.
Those who have lived through horrific events like Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy and seen their property wiped out can no doubt empathize with the people of Moore, who have sadly seen destructive twisters before. (An equally-fierce tornado hit Moore just over fourteen years ago, in May of 1999).
The White House said that President Barack Obama had placed a call to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to assure her that the federal government would provide whatever support the state might need. Here’s a readout of that call:
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.
The Red Cross has activated its “Safe & Well” website to help friends and relatives connect with individuals and families who are/were in the affected area. If someone is registered, you’ll be able to find him or her by doing a search.
UPDATE, 6:02 PM: The death toll is now at fifty-one. More than a hundred and twenty people are being treated for critical injuries as a result of the tornado.