The devastation was widespread and severe, U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts said after touring some of the hardest hit areas.
"If you didn't see it with your own eyes, you couldn't comprehend it," Watts said. "It's like someone piece-by-piece taking the houses apart and then just throwing them up in the air. They landed wherever cars on top of houses, on top of rubble."
Gov. Frank Keating said 40 people were killed by the storms. However, Ray Blakeney of the state medical examiner's office said the death toll of 40 that had been reported was an estimate. "Thirty-one is what we have confirmed at the present time," Blakeney said. "This morning I gave an estimate of between 30 and 40. I am fairly certain the number will go up."
The tornado was the deadliest to strike Oklahoma since April 9, 1947, when a twister killed 113 people in Woodward.
Keating said the storms left hundreds homeless and caused property damage in the "hundreds of millions" of dollars.
"This in terms of property loss is largest (storm in Oklahoma history). Several smaller communities (were) literally flattened," Keating said.
Keating said more than 500 people were treated at Oklahoma City area hospitals.
President Clinton on Tuesday declared 11 Oklahoma counties disaster areas eligible for federal assistance.
Clinton was trying to clear his schedule to visit Oklahoma on Saturday. The president attended a memorial service in Oklahoma City three days after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
"My heart goes out to the people of Oklahoma and Kansas who suffered through a night of terror and devastation," Clinton said in a prepared statement. "Our top priority is to make sure people are safe, that everyone is accounted for and that initial cleanup can begin."
Officials who toured ravaged areas Tuesday morning saw a variety of damage. The worst areas look like a landfill that has not been buried by soil, the debris jumbled and extensively ground to pieces.
Streets were clogged with traffic, most of the hardest hit areas blocked by national guard checkpoints, with guard members in curt moods.
Locals stream to and from neighborhoods like refugees, carrying bags of ice, infants, dogs. Some are dressed in whatever they could salvage.
"It looks like the Murrah Building, but instead of nine stories tall, it's spread out over a large area," said Jon Hansen, Oklahoma City assistant fire chief.