2:43 p.m. update: Air Force One is taxiing ahead of departure from Tinker Air Force Base.
2:38 p.m. update: The president exited his vehicle on the tarmac at Tinker Air Force Base. He shook hands and talked with military personnel for several minutes. He waved to those assembled as he walked back to Air Force One. He shook hands again with Rep. Tom Cole and Gov. Mary Fallin. The president shook hands with several people lined up at the foot of the stairs to the airplane, and then posed for a photo with them. He then climbed the stairs and waved before entering the airplane door.
2:31 p.m. update: The president's motorcade has started arriving back at Tinker Air Force Base.
2:30 p.m. update: Obama: "On Sunday, the first deadly tornadoes touched down about 40 miles from here. And I mentioned this the day afterwards -- there was a story that really struck me in the press -- in the rubble was found a Bible, open to the words that read: 'A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest.' And it’s a reminder, as Scripture often is, that God has a plan, and it’s important, though, that we also recognize we’re an instrument of his will. And we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore who have been impacted."
2:26 p.m. update: Some notes and quotes from Obama's earlier comments:
-"We’ve helped to register more than 4,200 people for disaster assistance, and we’ve approved more than $3.4 million in direct aid."
-"From the forecasters who issued the warnings, to the first responders who dug through the rubble, to the teachers who shielded with their own bodies their students, Oklahomans have inspired us with their love and their courage and their fellowship."
-Mayor Glenn Lewis "said that you’re already printing new street signs."
-President said he could only imagine being the husbands of principals Simpson and McMillin. "I can only imagine being their husbands ... and the panic that I’m sure they were feeling when the tornado first struck. But I know that they could not be prouder of their wives for the outstanding work that they did in this amazing situation."
2:17 p.m. update: After leaving Plaza Towers Elementary School, the president's motorcade made its way to Moore Fire Department Station No. 1. That station has served as a command post for disaster recovery. The flag at the station was flying at half staff when the president arrived. The president spoke to relief and recovery workers set up at tables in the empty bays of the fire station. The president also met at the fire station with families of the students killed at Plaza Towers. The motorcade left the fire station at about 2:10 p.m.
2:11 p.m. update: The president recently finished meeting with families of the students killed at Plaza Towers Elementary School. His motorcade was seen traveling through the streets of Moore near Interstate 35.
2:08 p.m. update: The president met with Moore School District officials, including Superintendent Susan Pierce, Plaza Towers Principal Amy Simpson and Briarwood Principal Shelley McNillin. He gave a long hug to Simpson and spoke with her for several minutes. He also talked to teachers who were in Plaza Towers when the tornado struck. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, told Obama that he grew up on same block as Pierce.
1:51 p.m. update: The president had an impromptu meeting with several aide and rescue workers and officials. He told them he was proud of them and that it would be a long road. He said a lot of lives were saved and that was due to great work and great coordination.
1:48 p.m. update: The president is expected to leave from Tinker Air Force Base prior to the 6 p.m. memorial service at First Baptist Church of Moore. Those wanting to attend the service are asked to park at Plaza Mayor of The Crossroads, formerly Crossroads Mall.
1:39 p.m. update: Obama: "When I say that we've got your back, we keep our word."
1:36 p.m. update: More from president's comments:
-To Gov. Mary Fallin: "Thank you so much for your quick response and your terrific work."
-"Oklahomans have inspired us with their love, their courage and their fellowship."
-"This is a strong community with strong character. There's no doubt they will bounce back. But they need help."
1:35 p.m. update: The president spent time at Plaza Towers Elementary School. He is expected to speak to the families of the students killed at the school.
1:28 p.m. update: More from president's comments:
- "I urge every American to step up. Go online. Donate to the Red Cross."
- "We know Moore is going to come back stronger from this tragedy."
- "We're going to be with you every step of the way."
1:12 p.m. update: So far on his walking tour, the president has seen:
-Huge piles of construction debris, some as high as 10 to 20 feet tall.
-Plaza Towers Elementary School yearbooks.
-Several waterlogged encyclopedias.
-A bright pink baby doll's stroller.
-A purple plastic toy camcorder.
-A pink child's parka.
1:09 p.m. update: President finishes address by saying, "May God bless the people of Oklahoma." He then turned from lectern and shook hands with Gov. Mary Fallin.
1:07 p.m. update: The president walked about a block along Eagle Drive through what can only be described as utter devastation. The elementary school was on his left as he stopped at a couple of piles of debris. Obama had a grim look on his face as he surveyed the scene.
1:03 p.m. update: "People here pride themselves on the Oklahoma Standard," the president said. He credited forecasters, first responders and teachers who shielded students.
1:01 p.m. update: The president arrived in Moore at 12:28 p.m. to tour one of the most devastated neighborhoods. Spectators waved on the sides of the roads during parts of the 20-minute motorcade.
1 p.m. update: President thanks Gov. Fallin, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, FEMA's Craig Fugate, Moore School District Superintendent Susan Pierce and Plaza Towers Elementary School Principal Amy Simpson.
12:59 p.m. update: The president gave remarks: "A picture is worth a thousand words."
"I'm speaking on behalf of the entire country," Obama said, adding that "fellow Americans are praying for you and thinking about you."
You are not alone, he said.
12:45 p.m. update: The president's motorcade includes several local police vehicles and an ambulance. Several police cars and sheriff's office vehicles can be seen around the area the president is touring. Television reports indicate military and U.S. Secret Service presence is evident.
12:32 p.m. update: President Barack Obama's motorcade has arrived in a storm-ravaged section of Moore. He is on foot, touring the area with other officials.
12:28 p.m. update: The president officially arrived at Tinker Air Force Base at 11:42 a.m. Sunday. He had switched to a black jacket. He left Air Force One and was greeted at the bottom of the stairs by Gov. Mary Fallin, whom he shook hands with and gave a hug. He also was greeted by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore), Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, Midwest City Mayor Jack Fry and Tinker personnel.
He then shook hands and spoke with some in the crowd of about 100 who gathered for his arrival. Many were Tinker personnel, both military and civilian, whose homes were damaged or lost in the tornadoes. About 350 Tinker families lost their homes.
12:25 p.m. update: White House spokesman Josh Earnest spoke to reporters about debris removal. He said, when the president signs a major disaster declaration, that often includes direct financial assistance to help state and local governments.
Not only was that provided as part of the major disaster declaration the president signed on Monday, on Tuesday the president approved additional assistance for the state in implementation of a Debris Removal Pilot Program.
Typically, debris removal assistance is provided with a 75 percent, and 25 percent federal/state cost-share.
Under the pilot program, the president authorized the federal share of the debris removal assistance to increase to 85 percent for the first 30 days and 80 percent for the second 60 days -- encouraging state and local governments to prioritize debris removal at the beginning of the recovery phase, which in turn increases access to affected areas and speeds other phases of recovery.
12:20 p.m. update: Other officials President Barack Obama met with on the tarmac at Tinker Air Force Base:
-Lieutenant General Bruce Litchfield, Commander, Air Force Sustainment Center
-Colonel Steven Bleymaier, Commander, 72d Air Base Wing and Installation Commander
-Chief Master Sergeant Brian Lavoie, Command Chief, 72d Air Base Wing
-Midwest City Mayor Jack Fry
-Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore
-Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett
-FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate
12:15 p.m. update: White House spokesman Josh Earnest briefed reporters aboard Air Force One about the president's trip and said preparations for the tornado began days ahead of its arrival in Moore, thanks in part to ever-improving weather forecasting technology, citing the work done by the National Weather Service. The NWS briefed national and regional FEMA personnel May 19, and FEMA was already in place before the deadly storm hit.
Earnest said tornado warnings were issued for Moore 36 minutes before the tornado struck, which is better than the average time of 12 minutes.
He also said FEMA has provided 43,000 meals,150,000 liters of water and thousands of cots, blankets and tarps.
"That support is not winding down. We will be standing with the people of these resilient communities as they come back stronger than ever."
He went on to say today is not a day for politics.
"That said, it is evident to any impartial observer here, what an important role the federal government can play in providing assistance to our people in their urgent time of need," Earnest said. "It's important for the people in these communities to understand that the entire nation is standing with them in their time of need."
Noon: President Barack Obama has arrived at Tinker Air Force Base and deboarded Air Force One. Obama was greeted on the tarmac by Gov. Mary Fallin, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and several other state officials. Obama met with several people beside the runway and then climbed aboard a vehicle to depart the base.
11:45 a.m. update: Obama is expected to be greeted by Gov. Mary Fallin and accompanied by Rep. Tom Cole, whose district includes Moore, one of the communities that was destroyed by tornadoes Sunday and Monday that killed 24 injured hundreds and caused damage estimated at more than $2 billion.
According to a White House official the president is expected to tour Moore.