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Tornado Hits Oklahoma, Destroys Schools In Its Path

8:40 AM, May 21, 2013   |    comments
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Moore, OK --  The state medical examiner's office has revised the death toll from a tornado in an Oklahoma City suburb to 24 people, including seven children.

Spokeswoman Amy Elliot said Tuesday morning that she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. Authorities said initially that as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.

Teams are continuing to search the rubble in Moore, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, after the Monday afternoon tornado.

The National Weather Service said a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma with wind speeds up to 200 mph. That places the tornado as an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale.

A massive, mile-wide tornado with winds up to 200 mph spent 40 minutes on the ground as it devastated homes, schools and businesses across southern Oklahoma City and its suburbs Monday afternoon. 

Note: At 8:30pm Monday, a state medical examiner confirmed at least 51 deaths with 20 of those being children.

Catastrophic damage was reported in Moore, where two elementary schools were destroyed, including one that took a direct hit. Several children were pulled alive from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary, but there were no immediate reports of rescues or casualties at Briarwood Elementary.

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Three hospitals reported treating at least 120 injured, including some children pulled from the Plaza Towers school.

More than 60 patients were treated for tornado injuries at Norman Regional Medical Center.

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The twister heavily damaged one hospital in Moore, ripping off its roof, and a water treatment was knocked offline. Residents and businesses in southeastern Oklahoma City were advised to stop using water.

The preliminary rating of the tornado that hit Moore at 2:53 p.m. CT is at least an EF-4, which means wind speeds of from 166 to 200 mph, the National Weather Service said.

On May 3, 1999, a record-setting EF-5 tornado obliterated the city of 55,000 with winds measured at 318 mph, the highest ever on the earth's surface. The storm killed 36 people, injured hundreds, and caused about $1 billion in damages.

The National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., said a tornado warning was in effect Monday afternoon for 16 minutes before the twister developed.

Rescuers are "going house to house and block to block to try and find any survivors that are out there and trapped,'' said state emergency management spokesman Jerry Lojka.

"We can only imagine that there are still many others there that are unaccounted for,'' he said.

Lojka said emergency management officials were working from an underground command center in Oklahoma City and did not yet know how many students were in the two elementary schools in Moore that were destroyed.

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News 9 meteorologists say the twister closely mimicked the path of the deadly tornado on May 3, 1999.

After hitting Moore, the tornado crossed Interstate 35 and continued its destructive path near N.E. 12th Street and Sunnylane.

A mile-wide tornado swept through parts of Oklahoma City. It has reduced neighborhoods to rubble. Live pictures show mangled metal from homes, buildings, and cars.

Lots of vehicles are scattered across roads in the south and southwest areas according to the Associated Press. A part of Moore hit was also hit hard by a tornado in 1999.

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