MOORE, Okla. — The medical examiner’s office in Moore, Okla., has revised the number of dead to at least 24, following an outbreak of deadly tornadoes on Monday. Nine of those are children. Previous estimates by the medical examiner indicated 91 were killed. While 24 is the latest estimate, that number is expected to fluctuate as search and rescue efforts continue.
On Monday after the twisters finally dissipated, yellow-helmeted rescue workers desperate searched for students and teachers at an elementary school that was almost gone.
At one school, 75 students were inside at the time of the twister, but were amazingly safe and accounted for.
KFOR reported debris from the tornado fell as far away as Branson, Mo. That’s more than 250 miles from the site of the deadly twister.
Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary School. The children were found in a classroom — not the school’s basement as previously reported.
Residents, if they could get back home, saw incredible damage in their neighborhoods, including vehicles tossed on the tops of house roofs.
Even seasoned journalists struggled at times to keep their composure when they described what they were seeing in the affected cities.
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Lando Hite was shirtless and muddy all over as he described what happened at horse and entertainment farm in Moore.
“It was just like the movie ‘Twister,’ ” he said. “There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere.”
INTERACTIVE MAP: Tornadoes in 1999, 2003, 2013 in Moore
The tornado slammed into the Orr Family Farm, which had about 80 horses. It damaged several barns; Hite was worried most of the animals were killed.
“I tried to let some of the horses out of their stalls so that they would have a chance,” said the worker, who said the building he was in was moved about 100 feet.
Going through school’s debris
Dozens of students and staff were at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore when the twister struck, according to KFOR.
Students who got out said they hugged and clung to walls as the tornado passed through.
Monday evening, Workers continued to comb through the site, where only a few walls were left standing. There was no word on casualties.
People rushed to the site, but officials kept them at a distance as they continued searching for survivors.
A boy who got out of the school told CNN affiliate KOCO that teachers hurried children from the damage.
‘The Lord took care of us’
One resident of Moore put his situation into perspective. His home was gone, as were years’ worth of belongings. But he and his wife were alive.
“The Lord took care of us,” said the man, 72. “My security is not in my hands. It is in the Lord’s
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.