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(We’re following the news from Oklahoma, where a tornado devastated the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday. Most recent update: 8:10 a.m. ET.)
As Tuesday dawned, the official death toll from the monster tornado that roared through Moore, Okla., on Monday stood at 51.
But Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma state medical examiner’s office, was warning that officials believe at least another 40 people had been killed. Some of those are thought to be children in one of the schools that was destroyed by the powerful storm.
More than 200 people were injured when the storm’s winds (said to have been blowing at up to 200 mph) leveled buildings across a wide swath of land. The cost — in lives and damage — from the storm is expected to exceed that from a tornado that devastated the same part of the nation in May 1999. That twister left behind “46 dead and 800 injured, more than 8,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and total property damage of nearly $1.5 billion,” as NOAA has reported.
Tuesday was bringing incredible stories — some of survival, some of heartbreaking loss.
On Morning Edition, NPR’s Wade Goodwyn reported that 4th, 5th and 6th graders attending Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School had been evacuated to a nearby church, where they found shelter. “Kindergarteners through 3rd grade children hunkered down at the school,” Wade reported. At least seven children died in the destroyed school’s basement. Searchers were continuing to look for more victims.
Meanwhile, forecasters were warning that more severe weather was possible in the area Tuesday — and across much of the nation’s midsection. According to the National Weather Service, the threat extends “from the Great Lakes across the Mississippi River Valley and into central Texas.” What to watch for: “very large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.”
As we reported Monday, President Obama has signed a disaster declaration late Monday, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area.
We’ll be following the news as the day continues. So hit your refresh button to make sure you’re seeing our latest updates. We’ll add related posts as well. Note: As happens during news events such as this, there will be information that later proves to have been incorrect. We’ll focus on what’s being reported by NPR and other news trusted news outlets, and on information provided by officials with direct knowledge of the situation. If some information proves to have been wrong, we’ll correct the record and explain what happened.
Update at 8:10 a.m. ET. “All I could see was destruction”:
Associated Press photographer Sue Ogrocki saw the tornado warnings on television Monday and headed toward Moore. She writes that “by the time I got to Moore, all I could see was destruction.”
Ogrocki was at one of Moore’s elementary schools as rescuers brought children out alive. “I know students are among those who died in the tornado,” she says, “but for a moment, there was hope in the devastation.”
Update at 7:55 a.m. ET. About 100 Rescued From Rubble So Far.
Though the death toll is expected to rise, there is this good news: CNN says it’s been told by authorities that about 100 people — so far — have been found alive and rescued from the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Update at 7:25 a.m. ET. “2-Mile Wide Lawnmower Blade”:
Monday’s tornado was like “a 2-mile wide lawnmower blade” that chewed up everything in its path as it went through Moore, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (R) just told CNN.
Update at 7:20 a.m. ET. Listening For Voices:
From The Associated Press: “Rescuers walked through neighborhoods where Monday’s powerful twister flattened home after home, to listen for any voices calling out from the rubble.”
Update at 6:45 a.m. ET. News Conference Expected; Lightning And Rain In Area:
TV crews in Moore are packing up to head for shelter as rain resumes and lightning can be seen in the sky. Meanwhile, CNN says police officials expect to hold a news conference at 8 a.m. ET.
Update at 6:35 a.m. ET. How To Help, Where To Go For Information:
The White House blog has a post that outlines “Resources and Information for Those Affected by Oklahoma Tornadoes.”
Update at 6:30 a.m. ET. President Obama To Address Nation:
The president is expected to make a statement about the tragedy in Oklahoma at 10 a.m. ET.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.