Massive Tornado Rips Through Oklahoma City Suburb

By: Associated Press and CBS News
By: Associated Press and CBS News

MOORE, Okla. (AP) Update 6:38 PM:

A mix of volunteers and first responders began combing through debris in the Oklahoma City area Monday evening to look for survivors after neighborhoods were flattened by a mile-wide tornado.

The National Weather Service says the devastating twister, one of several created by a storm system that swept through nation's midsection the past 36 hours, reached winds up to 200 mph.

Television footage on Monday afternoon showed homes and buildings that had been reduced to rubble in Moore, Okla., south of Oklahoma City.

CBS News correspondent Anna Werner reports much of the area smelled of gas. Residents walked around in shock. A high school, elementary school, movie theater and hospital were among buildings hard hit.

Although there was no official word on casualties, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said "it would be a miracle if people didn't get harmed in this story."

One woman told CBS News affiliate KWTV she and her two children survived by hiding in the bathtub. "Everything is gone," she said through tears. "Our whole house is gone. Everything except for where we were was gone."

Hospital officials remain on emergency alert, although KWTV reports there are already multiple fatalities. Patients were evacuated from the hospital that was hit.

"We just need patience at this point of time, and we need prayers," Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch told CBS "Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley.

KWTV also reported that emergency personnel were rushed toward Plaza Towers Elementary school in south Moore to rescue students and staff that were trapped. All kids were accounted for, with some minor injuries reported, but the building was obliterated from receiving a direct blow from the tornado. Several children were pulled out alive from the rubble

Moore was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. The storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.

Sunday's severe weather caused two deaths and at least 21 injuries. Earlier Monday, spokeswoman Amy Elliot of the Oklahoma state medical examiner's office identified the two people confirmed dead from Sunday's storms as 79-year-old Glen Irish and 76-year-old Billy Hutchinson. Both men were from Shawnee.

Tornadoes were reported Sunday in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma as part of a storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota. Oklahoma's governor has declared a state of emergency in 16 counties across the state.

The powerful system spawned baseball-sized hail, and winds strong enough to flip over tractor trailers, littering them across a major interstate, reports correspondent Anna Werner.

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Authorities say an elementary school in an Oklahoma City suburb took a direct hit from a mile-wide tornado.

Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department says there is no word of injuries from the elementary school. Knight says the school suffered "extensive damage" on Monday afternoon. He did not say which school was hit.

Neighborhoods in Moore, Okla., are flattened and blown apart, with shards of wood and pieces of insulation strewn everywhere. Television footage also showed first responders picking through rubble and twisted metal in the suburb south of Oklahoma City.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The suburb of Moore was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. The storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.


Video controlled by CBS News

News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |


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