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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 20 Updates on Tornado That Left Dozens Dead Near Oklahoma City

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KOCO-TV's Michael Seiden talks with a resident of Moore, Okla., who lives in a neighborhood destroyed by the tornado just a few streets from Plaza Towers Elementary School, via YouTube/KOCO-TV

Last Updated, 11:37 p.m. Video and images in the aftermath of a tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon show a wide swath of destruction in this suburb south of Oklahoma City. At least 91 people have been killed, including 20 children, state officials said. Another 143 others have been injured.

As my colleagues Nick Oxford and Michael Schwirtz report, the twister leveled entire neighborhoods. Into the night, rescue crews continued to search for students and teachers feared trapped inside the crumpled Plaza Towers Elementary School, according to reports from KFOR-TV, which is streaming live coverage online from Moore.

KOCO-TV, the ABC News affiliate in Oklahoma City, is also providing live updates from its reporters tracking the storm on the ground.

Lance West, a reporter and anchor for KFOR-TV, was overcome by emotion as he reported live from the elementary school on Monday afternoon. He described a chaotic scene of parents arriving to pick up their children to find rescue crews calling out for survivors as they combed through what was left of the school: a 10-foot mountain of debris. Mr. West said that the school's cinder-block walls had collapsed and that the roof was missing.

Mr. West said that fourth, fifth and sixth graders were accounted for at Plaza Towers, but that some younger students and staff members may be trapped inside. Students at another nearby elementary school, Briarwood, have been accounted for.

A child was pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., on Monday.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press A child was pulled from the rubble of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., on Monday.

A video from The Associated Press shows an aerial view of rescue workers taking victims to a triage area set up near Plaza Towers.

An aerial view showing rescue workers taking people trapped at Plaza Towers Elementary School to a triage area.

In the suburban neighborhood near the school, reporters on the scene described multiple homes destroyed, making it difficult for search and rescue crews to find survivors and impossible for anyone returning to the neighborhood to find their home.

Mr. Oxford, reporting for The New York Times, posted multiple images on Twitter of the destruction after arriving in Moore to report on the aftermath of the storm.

Natalie Ruhl, a television producer from Oklahoma City, posted photos on Twitter of the destruction in Moore.

David Massey, who said he lives two and half miles from the center of the devastation, posted several videos on Vine, showing the damage in the aftermath of the storm and people looking for survivors.

The tornado was at least a mile wide when it touched down at 2:56 p.m. and traveled for 20 miles, striking the town of Newcastle before it reached Moore, about 10 miles away. Weather officials said it was on the ground for about 40 minutes.

Michael Welch captured this video of the tornado from Newcastle and uploaded it to YouTube.

A video of the tornado captured from nearby Newcastle as it approached Moore, uploaded to Youtube by Michael Welch.

On Facebook, Jeff Lechus shared a cellphone video he captured while caught in the middle of the storm, driving to pick up his son.

The National Weather Service is reporting that the preliminary rating for the tornado that struck Moore is at least an EF-4, indicating winds between 166 and 200 miles per hour.

In 1999, Moore was struck by a tornado with a wind speed of 318 miles per hour, which at the time was the highest wind speed recorded on Earth. A look at how this storm tracked and compared with the 1999 storm:

The tornado on Monday came after severe weather on Sunday spawned at least two dozen tornadoes across Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois. The hardest hit area appeared to be a mobile home park in Shawnee, Okla., where two older men were killed and more than a dozen were injured. The half-mile-wide tornado overturned tractor-trailers and also caused damage in nearby towns.

KOCO-TV uploaded multiple videos to YouTube from Sunday, including raw footage shared by viewers and its own reports showing aerial views of the destruction in the aftermath of the storm.

KOCO-TV report with aerial footage of a mobile home park area devastated by a tornado, via YouTube.
Raw footage of a tornado that killed two people and damaged more than 85 homes in Oklahoma, via KOCO-TV.
Raw video of an approaching tornado near Shawnee, Okla., via KOCO-TV.

Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel shared images of the destruction at the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park near Shawnee, the area that was hit by Sunday's tornado.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 16 counties that were affected by tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding.

In Kansas, a tornado touched down in Viola, west of Wichita, and was spotted near Mid-Continent Airport on the city's southwest side, knocking down power lines and destroying a handful of homes, according to The Wichita Eagle.

The National Weather Service reported that severe weather was possible on Monday in parts of northwest Arkansas, southeast Kansas, southern Missouri, central and eastern Oklahoma, and North Texas.