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Oklahoma tornado tore through 13,000 buildings

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Officials say the massive tornado that battered Moore, Okla., may have created $2 billion or more in damage as it tore through as many as 13,000 homes, multiple schools and a hospital.

The financial cost of the tornado in Moore could be greater than the $2 billion in damage from the 2011 tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Mo., officials said.

"The tornado that we're talking about is the 1 or 2 percent tornado," Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood said of the twister, which measured a EF5, the most powerful type of tornado.

"This is the anomaly that flattens everything to the ground," Ashwood said.

The monstrous tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes, flattening homes and buildings on a 17-mile path.

While estimating that between 12,000 and 13,000 homes were affected by Monday's tornado, emergency officials said they were unable to estimate the number of people left homeless, in part because many had been taken in by relatives. Only a couple dozen stayed overnight at Red Cross shelters.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to view the destruction firsthand on Sunday. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Wednesday and again pledged the federal government's ongoing support.

"We know that people are really hurting," she said. "There's a lot of recovery yet to do. ... We will be here to stay until this recovery is complete. You have our commitment on that."

With no reports of anyone still missing, the Oklahoma medical examiner's office announced that it has positively identified 23 of the 24 people who died in the tornado, and that 10 of those killed are children.

All of the children have been identified, among them 4-month-old Case Futrell and 7-month-old Sydnee Vargyas. Both babies died from head injuries. The eight other children ranged in age from 4 years to 9 years. Of those, six were suffocated. The other two died from massive injuries.

Many questions are emerging as to why two elementary schools directly hit by the tornado had no safe rooms for the children. Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said there is limited funding for safe rooms and it's up to each jurisdiction to set priorities for which schools get that funding.

Seven children were killed sheltering in above-ground classrooms and hallways. Ashwood said authorities are going to review which schools have safe rooms and try to get them in more schools across the state. Meanwhile, all schools in Moore have been closed for the rest of the school year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has more than 400 personnel on the ground supporting the response. So far, more than 1,000 people have registered for assistance.

There are several ways you can help the tornado victims in Oklahoma. Donate to the American Red Cross by visiting www.redcross.org or by calling (800) RED-CROSS. You can also text "Red Cross" to 90999 to donate $10.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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storm, extreme weather, oklahoma tornado, national news
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