MOORE, Okla. — A massive tornado leveled miles of homes, businesses, and schools Monday afternoon and emergency response teams were on the ground, trying to find the survivors.
As many as 37 people are dead and that number is only expected to rise.
LIVE BLOG: Deadly Moore, Okla., tornado
KFOR-TV reported people were pulling students from a classroom at an elementary school. At one school, 75 students were inside at the time of the twister, but were amazingly safe and accounted for.
Sadly, rescue efforts were halted at another school that was damaged, where there’s believed to be as many as 24 children dead. Around 6:30 p.m., officials said they pulled the bodies of seven children were drowned in the school’s basement.
“People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come,” Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol, told CNN after a tornado hit the Oklahoma City area on Monday afternoon. She did not say how many people were trapped. “Send your prayers heavenward because there are people fighting for their lives.”
The National Weather Services predicted a preliminary rating of at least EF-4 (166 to 200 mph).
Monday afternoon’s devastating tornado in the Oklahoma City suburbs brought to mind a May 1999 E5 twister that killed 36 people and smashed some of the same communities.
On May 3, 1999, a total of 74 tornadoes pummeled Kansas and Oklahoma, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The states counted a total of 46 dead. Thirty-six died in Oklahoma City.
The strongest tornado, rated a maximum EF5 on the Fujita Tornado Scale, tracked for nearly an hour and a half along a 38-mile path from Chickasha through south Oklahoma City and the suburbs of Bridge Creek, Newcastle, Moore, Midwest City and Del City. west City and Del City.
Monday’s tornado in Oklahoma city, with a preliminary rating of E4, also struck Moore and Newcastle.
According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, the 1999 Oklahoma City twister was among the costliest in U.S. history, with damage totaling at $1 billion.
The second deadliest tornado in the Oklahoma City area occurred on June 12, 1942, with 35 residents killed.