A monstrous tornado killed at least 51 people Monday as it roared through Moore and south Oklahoma City — leaving rescue workers frantically searching into the night for missing children at the devastated Plaza Towers Elementary School in the Moore School District.
At least 20 children were included among those killed, and the death toll is expected to rise, the state medical examiner reported.
More than 100 were injured.
President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration late Monday. The president's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Betsy Randolph described the devastation as “the worst thing I have ever seen.”
“When I got to Moore, I saw a lot of walking wounded — people with blood all over. It was a matter of putting work gloves on and getting to work,” she said. “We hope that we don't have any more fatalities, but we know there are a lot more people trapped tonight.”
Randolph urged people to stay away from the area.
The number of fatalities already has surpassed the 44 killed in the horrific May 3, 1999, tornado that previously devastated the Moore-south Oklahoma City area.
As night fell, relatives were crying out for their children at Plaza Towers, where they said more than 20 children were missing and feared dead. Emergency responders continued working late into the night in hopes of finding survivors.
Plaza Towers was one of two Moore elementary schools ravaged by the massive tornado as it ground up neighborhoods, cars and everything else in its path.
Briarwood Elementary School was the other elementary school slammed.
The gymnasium at Moore's Highland East Junior High School also was struck, leaving football equipment strewn across the ground.
Chaos reigned at Briarwood shortly after the tornado hit as crying, mud-caked children could be seen streaming from the collapsed building.
Frantic parents rushed toward the school, dodging downed power lines and scattered debris.
What appeared to be the lifeless body of a child was pulled from the rubble of a home about four houses down from the school.
The tornado — with wind speeds preliminarily estimated at up to 200 mph — ripped the roof off the school and collapsed school walls, leaving several children trapped in the debris. Emergency workers arrived quickly on the scene and began laboring to free the children. A witness said none of the Briarwood school children he saw appeared to have major injuries.
The smell of natural gas filled the air from broken gas lines.
Emergency Medical Services Authority rushed ambulances to schools, several homes, businesses and intersections in response to reports of multiple injuries.
Later Monday, Briarwood students were taken to a location at Vicki Drive and 156 Court, where officials sought to reunite them with parents.
Southmoore High School used a bus and police squad cars to shuttle students from the school to a location where they could be reunited with their parents following the storm.
Garrett Bennett, a 15-year-old freshman, said he was in the field house with coaches and other players when the storm hit.
Coaches had about 15 students and student managers go to a locker room in the building's interior, and at one point had them all put on football helmets, Bennett said.
“They came in and told us to get on the floor and put your head down,” he said.
Kelly Wells, Norman Regional Medical Center spokeswoman, said Moore Medical Center was significantly damaged, with the second floor largely gone.
“All of our staff has been accounted for,” she said. “None of our patients there have been critically injured. We're in the process of evacuating the hospital.”
The hospital had 30 patients at the time. They were being taken to two Norman hospitals.
Wells said staff members told her the hospital's second floor is “pretty much gone, and the front side is gone.” The north end of the hospital was also heavily damaged, she said.
OU Medical Center and Children's Hospital reported treating 85 storm patients, including 65 children. Medical conditions ranged from minor to critical.
St. Anthony Hospital treated six injured patients and Integris Health Southwest Medical Center treated 55, including a 7-year-old boy whose parents could not be located. Hospital officials said they would keep him until his parents are found.
Obama spoke with Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday evening and told the governor Oklahomans were in the prayers of the president and first lady.
The president said his administration, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stands ready to provide all available assistance as the governor's team responds to the storm.wmctv.com: Watch time-lapse video of the tornado
Continue reading this story on the...
MORE FROM NEWSOK
- Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Six tips for tornado survivors
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Rare term used in Monday's storms
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore Medical Center damaged by tornado
- Relatives arrive at hospital in frantic searches for loved ones in Oklahoma
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Rescuers search into night for Moore schoolchildren
- Rock, pop, country acts give talents and time to help Oklahoma tornado victims
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Energy company donation seeds nonprofit for school safe rooms
- Carrie Underwood donates $1 million to Red Cross for disaster relief in wake of deadly Oklahoma tornadoes
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Pecan Valley residents struggle to recover
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Hospitals continue to treat patients injured from tornadoes
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Longtime friend takes in Orr Family horses
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Stories from the storm
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Acts of kindness
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Businessmen donate fuel, light plants to relief effort
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Woman meets the military officer who shared the clothes off his back
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Plaza Towers teachers, students reunite after tornado
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Plaza Towers principal helps knit school together
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Despite losing race against tornado, mother, daughter reunited
- Adam Wilmoth column: Recipients of Oklahoma spirit grateful for helping hands
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Hard rain hinders cleanup efforts
- Oklahoma tornadoes: SBA offers assistance to Oklahoma businesses affected by tornadoes
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Memorial service set for Oklahoma tornado victims
- If you go: Tornado benefit concerts
- deadCenter Film Festival and Myriad Gardens teaming up for tornado relief
- GOING ON: 37th Annual Paseo Arts Festival
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Paseo Arts Festival in Oklahoma City brightens holiday weekend
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Comics community reaches out after tornado
- Oklahoma tornadoes: 'I just don't know how to feel. It's just something I had to do'
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Mobile post offices being set up for affected Moore areas
- Story behind the photo: Family members describe desperate search for one another after EF5 twister
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Sooners bring back some smiles to Sydney Angle's teammates
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Thunder reverses the role, takes a turn at cheering on the community
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Red Cross agrees to dedicate text donations to state storm relief efforts
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore Superintendent vows schools will reopen in August
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Bonds at Plaza Tower Elementary stronger than any tornado
- Moore tornado: More on Big Dog & the hug
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Tornado damage could exceed $2 billion
- Oklahoma tornadoes: House gives final approval to tornado relief
- Oklahoma tornadoes: OU, OSU and the Univ. of Tulsa combine efforts for relief T-shirts
- Oklahoma tornadoes: For the moment, too many volunteers are in affected area
- Kids, teachers from school devastated by Moore tornado reunite
- Oklahoma tornadoes: BP donates $500K to Moore tornado relief effort
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Motorists urged to avoid I-35 in Moore
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford leading aid effort
- Oklahoma tornadoes: ‘All I could do was sit there and hold her'
- Kristin Chenoweth raising money for Oklahoma tornado relief thorugh her Maddie's Corner charity
- Reduxion Theatre to donate proceeds from Thursday's performance of "Tom Jones" to tornado relief
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore students can say goodbye
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore students can say goodbye
- Verses of Hope: Tornado victims reminisce about their terrifying storm ordeals
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Children endured tornado in hall of Plaza Towers Elementary
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Love's to give $3 million to storm relief
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Storm shelter installations spike after storms, records show
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Major retailers Target and Walmart hustle to meet demand for necessities
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Hurricane Sandy victims send supplies to Oklahoma
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Love for Oklahoma generates big donation
- Oklahoma tornadoes: U.S. Homeland Security secretary tours storm damage in Moore
- Oklahoma tornado: EF5 tornadoes like Monday's are very rare
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Acts of kindness
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Tornado leaves family members in two hospitals and one dead
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Historic bridge near Newcastle damaged beyond repair
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Racing pigeon lands in Edmond from Dallas after storm
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Residents of Carney appreciate support
- Oklahoma tornadoes: President Barack Obama to visit Oklahoma on Sunday
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Tony Allen teaming with Grizzlies, Red Cross to collect donations
- OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant tours Moore, meets with residents
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Battle-hardened National Guardsmen work different kind of mission in Moore
- Oklahoma tornadoes: A cemetery cleanup to remember long past Memorial Day
- Local Musicians Show Outpouring of Support to Moore Tornado Victims
- Oklahoma tornadoes: OSSAA offers to replace state championship memorabilia lost in tornadoes
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Oklahoma tornado victims identified
- Oklahoma tornadoes: OU's Merv Johnson 'was extremely lucky, but I wasn't very smart' with weather decisions
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Dub Raper's boys are giving back to their coach
- Oklahoma City Thunder visits affected Moore, southwest Oklahoma City areas
- Oklahoma tornado: Names of dead released; missing individuals located
- UPDATED Video: Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert to perform "Over You" in honor of Oklahoma on "The Voice" tonight; Swon Brothers contending on tonight's show
- Oklahoma Senate votes to tap fund for tornado relief
- Moore theater to shift back to entertainment
- Oklahoma City mayor says 12,000 to 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed by May 20 tornado
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Backers of Oklahoma museum projects withdraw funding requests
- Before and after: May 20, 2013 Tornadoes
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Mother, newborn died seeking refuge from the storm
- Central Oklahoma builder has rebuilt before in Moore
- Realtors look for housing for Oklahoma tornado victims
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Damage could top $2 billion
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Mother, her children survive inside Plaza Towers school
- Oklahoma tornadoes: President Barack Obama pledges federal aid: 'There are homes and schools to rebuild'
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Power restored at Oklahoma City water plant
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Oklahoma energy companies contribute millions to relief efforts
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Insurance companies set up in Moore, in it for the long haul
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Lawmaker seeks bond issue to pay for storm shelters
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Survivor rides out tornado in doomed Moore school
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Social media used to warn, find information
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Acts of kindness are seen as businesses, others donate
- Oklahoma tornadoes: For Moore businesses, rebuilding will be more than structural
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Price gouging law is in effect in Oklahoma
- Oklahoma tornadoes: State attorney general advises donors to be aware in helping with relief effort
- Food Dude: Deadly Oklahoma tornadoes make it tough to think about cooking out
- Oklahoma tornadoes: When Moore gets hit: 'We kick back'
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Area's restaurant community steps up to support relief efforts
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Heatherwood addition survivors begin to rise again
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Orr Family Farm begins rebuilding
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore Public Schools closes for year
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Follow reporters, editors on Twitter to get late-breaking coverage
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Shawnee-area tornado carved a path similar to recent twister
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Moore woman, her family among survivors OU shelters
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Red Cross text donations not designated for Oklahoma
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Stories from the neighborhood
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Area groups offer help for tornado survivors
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Trial ends when police witnesses called to help at tornado site
- Oklahoma tornadoes: 'It's my cats I miss,' said woman whose home is gone
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Rescue teams continue search for victims
- Southmoore football players feel impact of tornado
- Oklahoma twister a top-of-the-scale EF-5
- Oklahoma Attorney General: Post-tornado donors beware
- Mom arrives at day care seconds ahead of Oklahoma tornado
- Power of Moore tornado dwarfs Hiroshima bomb
- OKC Thunder, Thunder Cares Foundation donate $1 million to tornado relief
- Oklahoma energy companies contribute more than $6.5 million to relief efforts
- Price gouging law in effect in Oklahoma after tornadoes
- CONTACT US: Plaza Towers Elementary students/staff/family
- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin: We will rebuild after tornado
- Father credits Moore teacher for saving son's life
- Pope expresses solidarity with Oklahoma tornado survivors
- Crews dig through night after deadly Oklahoma twister
- AP photographer sees kids pulled from Oklahoma school
- Noon news conference planned for Tuesday in wake of Moore tornado
- Crews work in Moore through the night and into the morning looking for survivors
- Oklahoma Highway Patrol: No Moore residents allowed back into neighborhoods overnight
- High schools: Practices called off long before tornado hit Moore
- At least 51 die in Oklahoma tornado, official says
- Hospitals treat more than 120 after Oklahoma tornado
- Oklahoma twister tracked path of 1999 tornado
- Oklahoma water treatment plant knocked out by storm
- Communications difficult after Oklahoma tornado
- Several kids pulled out of Oklahoma school rubble alive
- Police: School near OKC directly hit by tornado
- Tornado in Oklahoma City suburb causes destruction
- Storm damage in southeast Edmond: 'That was our favorite tree,' said Reggie Ayers of the 100-year-old cottonwood tree toppled by the storm.
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Officials assess damage to $88 million Edmond medical complex
- Oklahoma storms: 2 Shawnee men victims of deadly tornado
- UPDATE: Westbound I-40 reopens at U.S. 177 in Shawnee, Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports
- Severe storms possible in Oklahoma again Monday
- Oklahoma tornadoes: 'It took it all'
- Oklahoma tornadoes: How to help
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Tractor-trailers thrown about on Interstate 40
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Carney residents describe damage as 'unreal'
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Northeast part of Cleveland County sees damage
- Oklahoma tornadoes: National Weather Service reports continued severe weather risk for Monday
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Some houses in Dale neighborhood reduced to 'splinters'
- Oklahoma tornadoes: Several homes damaged by tornado, but no injuries in Edmond
- White House promises help after Oklahoma tornado
- NWS: Okla. tornado had winds up to 200 mph
Five things to watch in tonight’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona
'Mega Man' creator wants your help making a game-and-movie combo
'Sailing' spiders prove escaping from them is futile
Missy Elliott's late-night apology at Essence Fest 2015
THE ALAMO, MISSIONS NAMED WORLD HERITAGE SITES | News Radio 1200 WOAI