Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Oklahoma tornado: Complete devastation as huge tornado rips through suburbs killing dozens of people

A child calls to his father after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado as much as a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph) roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on the elementary school. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A child calls to his father after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013
A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma (AP, Sue Ogrocki)
A fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition in Moore, Oklahoma following a tornado (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
Rescue workers dig through the rubble of the Plaza Tower Elementary School to free trapped students in Moore, Oklahoma (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
Lee Hoyle, of Chickasaw Nation search and rescue, digs through the debris of a mobile home in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park, destroyed by Sunday's tornado, near Shawnee, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. The tornado that slammed into Oklahoma on Sunday is now blamed for two deaths. Authorities say two men in their 70s have been found dead in or near a mobile home park outside of Shawnee. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
Shawnee firefighters assist driver Marco Corr as he is taken from the cab of his overturned truck, in Shawnee, Okla., Sunday, May 19, 2013. Corr was taken out of the cab through the front windshield. A tornado caused extensive damage along Interstate 40 at the junction with U.S. 177. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)
A tornado caused extensive damage along I-40 at the junction with US 177 on the west side of Shawnee, Okla., Sunday evening, May 19, 2013. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)
Seven-year-old Katrina Ash, right, holds a doll as she waits in the back of a truck with her grandfather, Michael Bowen, left, after a tornado ripped through their neighbourhood near Dale, Oklahoma, Sunday, May 19, 2013. Residents are not being allowed back into the neighbourhood as search and rescue efforts take place. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
A child calls to his father after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School following a tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013.
Seven-year-old Katrina Ash, left, watches with her mother, Amber Ash, right, as heavy equipment is brought into their tornado damaged neighbourhood near Dale, Oklahoma, Sunday, May 19, 2013. Residents are not being allowed into the neighbourhood as search and rescue operations continue. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows a car pile-up outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows a car pile-up outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows homes flattened outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV) MANDATORY CREDIT
This photo provided by KFOR-TV shows a house fire outside Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/KFOR-TV)
Kay James holds her cat as she sits in her driveway after her home was destroyed by the tornado that hit the area near 149th and Drexel on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Chris Landsberger)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Yellow caution tape marks off the area surrounding the heavily damaged Moore Medical Center after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Dana Ulepich searches inside a room left standing at the back of her house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Nathan Ulepich searches outside the back of his house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: A Goodwill donation station is surrounded by debris after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Chain link fence posts stripped and bent mark the boundary between two houses destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Damaged vehicles are piled up in front of the Moore Warren Theater after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Cars marked with an orange 'X', denoting they had been checked for occupants, are piled up in what was the front entrance to the damaged Moore Medical Center after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Chain link fence posts stripped and bent mark the boundary between two houses destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Cars marked with an orange 'X', denoting they had been checked for occupants, are piled up in what was the front entrance to the damaged Moore Medical Center after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: A vehicle lies upside down in the road after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Debris covers the ground after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Massive piles of debris cover the ground after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: (L - R) Yvonne Barragar, Joe Marshall and Barbara Garcia sit in front of Barragar's destroyed house after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Philip Gotcher stands in the rubble of his house after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK - MAY 20: Debris covers the ground after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Philip Gotcher and his daughter Monica stand in the rubble of his house after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
MOORE, OK- MAY 20: Carlos and Kim Caudillo stand in the debris of their home after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado, reported to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide, touched down in the Oklahoma City area on Monday killing at least 51 people. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Volunteers chain saw a fallen tree knocked down by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A power line pole bent by a tornado stands over a street May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Candice Lopez (L) and Stephanie Davis help clean debris from Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Volunteers help clean out Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Lonnie Langston talks about his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A home sits damaged after a tornado moved through the area May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Kasey Clark sorts through the debris of her grandmother-in-law Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: ers help with cleanup of Tom and Ronda Clark's property after it was damaged by a tornadMay 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A piece of corrugated tin is draped over a power line after a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Volunteers help clean out Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A volunteer helps clean up Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A volunteer helps clean up Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: An electrical pole lies on a Pottawatomie County road after a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: Lonnie Langston stands near his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
SHAWNEE, OK - MAY 20: A home sits damaged after a tornado moved through the area May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. A series of tornados moved across central Oklahoma May 19, killing two people and injuring at least 21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

A tornado of rare power, that may be among the largest and most destructive in US history, has roared through an Oklahoma City suburb, killing at least 51 people, flattening neighbourhoods with winds up to 200mph and destroying at least one school.

Officials said children from the school were among the dead and the overall death toll was expected to rise, an Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office spokeswoman said.

Rescuers combed through the debris as darkness fell and rain began to fall. More than 140 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 70 children, some in a critical condition.

"Hearts are broken" for parents looking for their children, governor Mary Fallin said.

The ferocious storm - less than 1% of all tornadoes reach such wind speed - ripped through the suburb of Moore in a Midwest region of the US known as Tornado Alley. Street after street lay in ruins and cars and trucks were left crumpled.

The National Weather Service estimated that the tornado reached up to half a mile wide and was an EF-4 on the enhanced five-point Fujita scale, the second most powerful type of twister.

In video footage, the dark funnel cloud moved slowly across the landscape for more than half an hour, scattering shards of wood, pieces of insulation, shingles and glass over the streets.

The focus quickly turned to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where the storm tore off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal.

"You could see the debris, like pieces of shingles and insulation and stuff like that, rotating around it," said Chris Calvert, who saw the tornado from about a mile away.

Several children were pulled alive from the rubble. Rescue workers passed them down a human chain to a triage centre in the car park.

As night fell, emergency workers crawled through the ruins, looking for people. Crews used jackhammers and sledgehammers to tear away concrete. Bulldozers were getting stuck in the mud.

James Rushing, who lives opposite, heard reports of the approaching tornado and believing he would be safer there, ran to the school, where his five-year-old foster son Aiden is a pupil.

"About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart," he said. The pupils were put in the restroom.

After the tornado passed, Tiffany Thronesberry said she got a panicked call from her mother, Barbara Jarrell.

"I got a phone call from her screaming, 'Help, help! I can't breathe. My house is on top of me!"' Ms Thronesberry said. She hurried to her mother's house, where first responders had already pulled her out with cuts and bruises.

Dangers remained. Downed power lines and open gas lines posed a risk, police captain Dexter Nelson said. Television footage showed at least one fire in the debris.

The same suburb was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm produced the highest winds ever recorded near the Earth's surface - 302mph.

"Oklahoma City has had more tornado strikes than any other city in the United States," the city government's website says.

President Barack Obama called Ms Fallin to express his concern.

A man with a megaphone stood near a Catholic church and called out the names of surviving children as parents waited nearby, hoping to hear their sons' and daughters' names.

Don Denton had not heard from his two sons since the tornado hit the town, but the man who had endured six back surgeries and has a severe limp said he walked about two miles as he searched for them.

As reports of the storm came in, Mr Denton's 16-year-old son texted him, telling him to call.

"I was trying to call him, and I couldn't get through," he said. Eventually,his sons spotted him in the crowd, fine, but upset to hear that their grandparents' home was destroyed.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster and ordered government aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent a special team to Oklahoma's emergency operations centre to help out and dispatch resources.

Joplin sends expert help

The city of Joplin, Missouri, devastated by a tornado two years ago, is sending a team of safety experts to Moore.

The Joplin tornado killed 158 people and injured hundreds more.

Yesterday Joplin put together a team of about a dozen police and firefighters to assist rescue efforts in Moore.

Joplin city manager Mark Rohr said his community remembered the help it received in 2011 and felt an obligation to lend a hand in Moore.

The team from Joplin will help determine areas in which Moore needs further help and will also work to provide other assistance, Mr Rohr said.

Twister tracked 1999 tornado path

The monster tornado in suburban Oklahoma City loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999.

The National Weather Service estimated that the storm that struck Moore yesterday had wind speeds of up to 200mph and was at least half a mile wide. The 1999 storm had winds clocked at 300mph, according to the weather service website, and it destroyed or damaged more than 8,000 homes, killing at least two people.

Kelsey Angle, a weather service meteorologist in Kansas City, Missouri, said was unusual for two such powerful tornadoes to track roughly the same path. The 1999 twister was part of a two-day outbreak sweeping mostly across central Oklahoma - similar to the past two days.

The weather service has tentatively classified the Moore twister's wind speeds as an EF4 on a five-point scale. Less than 1% of all tornadoes reach EF4 or EF5.

The thunderstorm developed in an area where warm moist air rose into cooler air. Winds in the area caused the storm to rotate, and that rotation promoted the development of a tornado. The most destructive and deadly tornadoes develop from rotating thunderstorms.

The biggest known tornado was nearly two and a half miles wide at its peak width, which the weather service describes as near the maximum size for a tornado. It struck Hallam, Nebraska, in May 2004.

The deadliest tornado, which struck on March 18 1925, killed 695 people in Illinois, Missouri and Indiana.

Deaths from twisters have been declining in recent years because of improved forecasts and increased awareness by people living in tornado-prone areas, especially in smaller and rural communities.

Are you in the area? Have you been affected by the tornadoes?

Contact us at digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk  or send your pictures and videos to us at the same address.

 

Anatomy of a tornado

 

10 deadliest tornadoes in US since 1900

  • 695 deaths. March 18, 1925, in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
  • 216 deaths. April 5, 1936, in Tupelo, Mississippi.
  • 203 deaths. April 6, 1936, in Gainesville, Georgia.
  • 181 deaths. April 9, 1947, in Woodward, Oklahoma.
  • 158 deaths. May 22, 2011, in Joplin, Missouri.
  • 143 deaths. April 24, 1908, in Amite, Louisiana, and Purvis, Mississippi.
  • 116 deaths. June 8, 1953, in Flint, Michigan.
  • 114 deaths. May 11, 1953 in Waco, Texas.
  • 114 deaths. May 18, 1902 in Goliad, Texas.
  • 103 deaths. March 23, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

How to help

Red Cross

In the United States the Oklahoma Red Cross is asking people to donate by texting Red Cross to 90999 – that counts for a $10 donation. The organisation has a number of shelters open for those displaced by the storm.

Salvation Army

You can also donate to the Salvation Army, if in the United States, by phone: 800-725-2769 -- or online at: donate.salvationarmyusa.org

 

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