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Oklahoma tornado: Obama pledges federal government will get everything it needs 'right away'

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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21:  (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the tornadoes that impacted Oklahoma yesterday in the State Dining Room at the White House May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The town of Moore, Oklahoma reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the tornadoes that impacted Oklahoma yesterday in the State Dining Room at the White House May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The town of Moore, Oklahoma reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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MOORE, OK - MAY 20:  In this handout provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Soldiers and Airmen with the Oklahoma Army National Guard and the Oklahoma Air National Guard along with firefighters participate in recovery efforts after a tornado moved through on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James/U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images)

MOORE, OK - MAY 20: In this handout provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Soldiers and Airmen with the Oklahoma Army National Guard and the Oklahoma Air National Guard along with firefighters participate in recovery efforts after a tornado moved through on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James/U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images)

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MOORE, OK - MAY 20:  In this handout provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, two firefighters break through concrete during the search for survivors in the remains of the Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was hit by a tornado on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by Maj. Geoff Legler, Oklahoma National Guard Public Affairs/U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images)

MOORE, OK - MAY 20: In this handout provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, two firefighters break through concrete during the search for survivors in the remains of the Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was hit by a tornado on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by Maj. Geoff Legler, Oklahoma National Guard Public Affairs/U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images)

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A tornado passes across south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

A tornado passes across south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

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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 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)

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Damaged vehicles from Monday's tornado can be seen in the parking lot of the Moore Medical Center Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Oklahoma. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening an entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Damaged vehicles from Monday's tornado can be seen in the parking lot of the Moore Medical Center Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Oklahoma. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening an entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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An American flag blows in the wind at sunrise atop the rubble of a destroyed home a day after a tornado moved through Moore, Okla., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. The monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds up to 200 mph. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

An American flag blows in the wind at sunrise atop the rubble of a destroyed home a day after a tornado moved through Moore, Okla., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. The monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds up to 200 mph. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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Briarwood Elementary P.E. teacher Mike Murphy comforts Aiden Stuck, 7, as he waits for his mother at the school after a tornado destroyed Briarwood Elementary and struck south Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013.(AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Nate Billings)

Briarwood Elementary P.E. teacher Mike Murphy comforts Aiden Stuck, 7, as he waits for his mother at the school after a tornado destroyed Briarwood Elementary and struck south Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013.(AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Nate Billings)

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People walk through a neighborhood south of SW 149th between Western and Hudson after a tornado struck south Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Nate Billings)

People walk through a neighborhood south of SW 149th between Western and Hudson after a tornado struck south Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Nate Billings)

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Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Okla, Monday, May 20, 2013. Near SW 149th and Hudson.   (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman,  Paul Hellstern)

Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Okla, Monday, May 20, 2013. Near SW 149th and Hudson. (AP Photo/ The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

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Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

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MOORE, OK - MAY 21:  Daniel Garbelman begins cleanup of his yard after it was damaged by a tornado May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down yesterday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

MOORE, OK - MAY 21: Daniel Garbelman begins cleanup of his yard after it was damaged by a tornado May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down yesterday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

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MOORE, OK - MAY 21:  Debris lies around homes one block north of Plaza Towers Elementary school after the area was damaged by a tornado May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down yesterday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

MOORE, OK - MAY 21: Debris lies around homes one block north of Plaza Towers Elementary school after the area was damaged by a tornado May 21, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado of at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down yesterday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

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MOORE, OK - MAY 20:   In this handout provided by NASA from it's MODIS satellite, a storm system that generated a EF4 tornado is captured at 19:40 UTC on May 20, 2013 over Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.  (Photo by NASA via Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***

MOORE, OK - MAY 20: In this handout provided by NASA from it's MODIS satellite, a storm system that generated a EF4 tornado is captured at 19:40 UTC on May 20, 2013 over Moore, Oklahoma. The town reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***

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Alli Christian, left, helps Jessica Wilkinson as she looks for her dog Bella after Wilkinson returned to find her home near 156th street and Franklin Road destroyed by a tornado, Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

Alli Christian, left, helps Jessica Wilkinson as she looks for her dog Bella after Wilkinson returned to find her home near 156th street and Franklin Road destroyed by a tornado, Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

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A woman carries a child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. The relationship between the woman and the child was not immediately known. A tornado as much as half a mile (.8 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 an elementary school. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

A woman carries a child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. The relationship between the woman and the child was not immediately known. A tornado as much as half a mile (.8 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 an elementary school. (AP Photo Sue Ogrocki)

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Rescuers recover a horse from the remains of a day care center and destroyed barns, Monday, May 20, 2013  in Moore, Okla. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

Rescuers recover a horse from the remains of a day care center and destroyed barns, Monday, May 20, 2013 in Moore, Okla. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

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Alli Christian, left, returns Jessica Wilkinson's dog Bella to her after finding the pet amid the wreckage of Wilkinson's home shortly after a tornado struck near 156th street and Franklin Road on Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Norman, Okla. No one was in the home when the storm struck.  (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

Alli Christian, left, returns Jessica Wilkinson's dog Bella to her after finding the pet amid the wreckage of Wilkinson's home shortly after a tornado struck near 156th street and Franklin Road on Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Norman, Okla. No one was in the home when the storm struck. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Sisney)

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A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma (AP, Sue Ogrocki)

A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma (AP, Sue Ogrocki)

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A fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition in Moore, Oklahoma following a tornado (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

A fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition in Moore, Oklahoma following a tornado (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

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Rescue workers dig through the rubble of the Plaza Tower Elementary School to free trapped students in Moore, Oklahoma (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)

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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)

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)

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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)

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)

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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)

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)

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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)

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)

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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 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)

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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)

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)

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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)

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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)

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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 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

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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)

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)

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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)

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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: (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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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)

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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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) *** BESTPIX ***

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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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: 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)

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Rachel Hilton holds stray kittens she found in the debris of her parents' home at SW 149th and Stone Meadows Dr. after a tornado struck south Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Nate Billings)

Rachel Hilton holds stray kittens she found in the debris of her parents' home at SW 149th and Stone Meadows Dr. after a tornado struck south Oklahoma City and Moore, Okla., Monday, May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Nate Billings)

AP

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the tornadoes that impacted Oklahoma yesterday in the State Dining Room at the White House May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The town of Moore, Oklahoma reported a tornado to be at least EF4 strength and two miles wide that touched down Monday killing at least 24 people and leveling everything in its path. U.S. President Barack Obama promised federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

US president Barack Obama has promised that the federal government would get everything needed “right away” to victims of the devastating tornado that struck on Monday afternoon, killing at least 24 people.

The people of Moore should know their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes,” Mr Obama said at the White House a day after the most destructive storm in the US since the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, which killed 161 people and caused almost $3bn of damage.

 

“There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms, and classrooms, and in time we’re gonna need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community,” the President declared.

 

In fact, however, while the physical damage left by the twister, packing winds of 200mph or more, has yet to be assessed, the human toll appears to be lower than at first feared. With many people still unaccounted for, the total of 24 deaths – including nine children – may yet climb, but the final figure is likely to fall well short of earlier estimates of as many as 91.

 

By noon today, emergency workers who had toiled through the night had pulled more than 100 survivors from the rubble of flattened homes, schools and a hospital in Moore, a town of 55,000 people 10 miles south of Oklahoma City. More than 230 people were injured, and 120 were being treated at nearby hospitals, about 50 of them children, according to local officials. Last night more bad weather in the area, including hail, heavy rain and lightning, and the risk of further tornados, was complicating the rescuers’ work.

 

The scale of the calamity drew sympathy from far beyond the US. The Queen and Pope Francis were among world figures who sent condolences, while in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner ordered flags on Capitol Hill to be flown at half-mast. “This was the storm of storms,” Oklahoma City mayor, Mick Cornett, said.

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Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

AP

Teachers carry children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City, Monday, May 20, 2013. A monstrous tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs, flattening entire neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

 

The devastation occurred despite what appears to have been a highly efficient performance of the local weather service, in a region known as “Tornado Alley” for the frequency of lethal storms that batter the area.

 

A tornado warning was in effect for 16 minutes even before the storm first touched down. That is three minutes more than the average tornado alert, allowing those threatened to take refuge in basements – or more dangerously – to drive away from a storm whose path can swiftly change.

 

But in the case of a monster tornado, on the ground for 40 minutes and cutting an apocalyptic swathe 20 miles long and up to two miles wide, even the most careful precautions are sometimes not enough. Monday’s storm, moreover, was a 4 on the Fujita scale used to measure a tornado’s intensity, the second highest level, with winds of 200mph or more.

 

“People did the right thing,” said US Congressman Tom Cole, who lives in Moore. He added that the Plaza Towers school – where seven of the nine children died – was structurally the strongest building in the area. “But if you’re in front of an F4 or an F5 there is no good thing to do if you’re above ground. It’s just tragic.”

 

Monday’s was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998. The following year an even more powerful F5, with winds of 250mph or more, killed 36 people. A tornado also struck in 2003.

 

10 deadliest tornadoes in the United States 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, AP

Belfast Telegraph


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