Search Through Rubble Continues

By Don Mecoy Published: May 4, 1999
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The death toll from Monday's murderous tornado outbreak climbed to 38 as authorities continued to comb through the debris of hundreds of homes and businesses damaged and
destroyed across Oklahoma.

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.

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