News / USA

Dozens Dead as Massive Tornado Hits Oklahoma

A woman is pulled out from under tornado debris at the Plaza Towers School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
A woman is pulled out from under tornado debris at the Plaza Towers School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013.
Greg Flakus
A tornado with 320 kilometer per hour winds has killed at least 51 people and caused massive destruction in the central U.S. state of Oklahoma, destroying two schools and entire neighborhoods.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office said the death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers move deeper into the hardest-hit areas.

Loading...

The 1.6 kilometer-wide tornado hit Monday afternoon and destroyed large swaths of Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb, injuring dozens of people, sending debris flying and setting buildings on fire.

Rescue workers have pulled several children alive out of the rubble of the schools.   

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations.

Fallin also spoke with President Barack Obama, who asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide any assistance she needs.

The severe weather outbreak was expected to spread across other parts of the Plains and the Midwest. An earlier tornado killed two people in Oklahoma Sunday.

This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.
x
This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.
This combination of AP photos shows left: a neighborhood in Moore, Oklahoma in ruins, May 4, 1999, after a tornado flattened many houses and buildings in central Oklahoma, and right: flattened houses in Moore on Monday, May 20, 2013.
The National Weather Service placed parts of five storm-battered states - Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas - under a tornado watch, meaning conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop.

The same suburb of Oklahoma City was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the Earth's surface.

A tornado transformed the part of Moore directly in its path from a quiet middle class community into a field of debris. Rescue teams were digging through piles of wrecked wood, twisted metal and other rubble searching for victims who may have been trapped.

Rick Smith, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Moore, says the danger has not yet passed.

"We are going to be dealing with this for several hours it looks like and then, hopefully, after today it will quiet down for a while," said Smith.

How is a Major Disaster Declared in US?

  • A state's governor determines recovery is beyond the resources of state and local governments
  • FEMA works with the state to assess damage
  • Assessment looks at effect on people and businesses, number of people displaced, threat to public health, impact on infrastructure
  • By declaring a major disaster, the federal government can supplement recovery efforts ad make funding available
  • Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and low-cost loans
Source: White House, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Smith says storms are common at this time of year in Oklahoma and nearby states, an area often called "Tornado Alley." He says the monster tornadoes are the result of humid air close to the ground and wind conditions both near the ground and high up in the atmosphere.

"We have had very strong winds aloft and at the surface that creates what we call wind shear, that makes the storms start to rotate, and then we have had upper level disturbance, a storm system in the upper levels of the atmosphere, that moved out across Oklahoma this afternoon and the storms went from nothing to intense, dangerous storms in less than an hour," he said.

No one can predict exactly where a tornado will come down within the wide area covered by a storm system, but Rick Smith says Storm Prediction Center forecasters do everything possible to warn people.

"We were in close contact with emergency school systems and everything and our forecast and our information indicated that this was going to be as bad or worse than yesterday and it looks like that has definitely been the case," he said.

Tornadoes on Sunday killed two people in communities south and east of Oklahoma City. On Monday, legislators in the state Capitol cancelled sessions and took shelter along with state government employees as the storm clouds passed over the city. A full assessment of death, injury and damage from these tornadoes is likely to take days and the threat of more tornadoes in the area is far from over.

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid