At least 51 casualties including children have been reported after a historic tornado swept through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, devastating hundreds of buildings including two schools. Meteorologists reported winds up to 200 miles per hour.
A large tornado touched down in Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City on Monday, causing catastrophic damage to several housing developments, and at least two schools in the area. Local television news deployed a helicopter to track the tornado as it moved through the area, and then began to survey the extensive destruction to the region.
Monday’s storm appeared to be the deadliest tornado since 2011, and one of the worst in the last 20 years according to The Atlantic. The town lies well in the center of “Tornado Alley,” an area running from north Texas to South Dakota and west of the Mississippi river, known for frequent and powerful tornado systems.
“The whole city looks like a debris field,” said Mayor Glenn Lewis of the city of Moore.
Officials say that 75 children and teachers took shelter at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, which was essentially flattened by the passing tornado, and was the site of a rescue effort for several hours after the storm had passed.
Winds from the tornado tore the roof off, and parents had to be kept back as it was too loud to hear screams for help. Several children were pulled out alive from the debris during the day, with officials reporting that teachers had shielded students with their own bodies.
Students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade were evacuated to a church, but students in lower grades had sheltered in place, KFOR reported. Several dozen children are thought to have been killed at Plaza Towers as rescue teams continued to sift through the remains of the structure.
Seven students at the elementary school were found drowned at the bottom of the wreckage Monday evening, and no additional survivors were expected according to local media at the scene.
Meanwhile, students at another local school, Briarwood Elementary, had been accounted for and moved to a safe location.
Moore was last hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth’s surface. That storm’s winds were measured at 302 miles per hour, and left 36 people dead.
The National Weather Service initially classified Monday’s storm as an EF4, the second-strongest type with winds of up to 200 mph. Local reporters who were present for the 1999 storm, however, believe that the damage caused by this tornado appears to be considerably worse.
incredible scenes of destruction..and the most bizarre fact is that this has happened before in the very same place..