Search and recovery efforts in Moore: 51 dead, 24 children missing

EF-4 rated tornado scars the earth, destroying all in its path, including an elementary school, where seven children have died. Photo: Tornado, with debris field visible.

UPDATE: The state medical examiner’s office revealed that some of the victims may have been counted twice and the most recent death toll is at 24 people, 7 of whom are children, according to the Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2013 – A mile-wide Tornado with 200 mph winds spent approximately one hour on the ground destroying homes, schools, cars, and power lines in the City of Moore, Oklahoma, a city of 41,000 people, earlier today.  

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Tragically this horrific twister, flattened cars, demolished entire neighborhoods, and leveled an elementary school where children were killed, possibly drowned.

Initial television reports show cars resembling stepped-on soda cans, and homes that look like a pile of toothpicks.  

At this time, the number of confirmed dead is 51 and expected to climb. At 10:15pm EST, approximately 24 children are still missing. Confimed dead include twenty-plus children, a young mother and her 7 month old child.

MSNBC reports: “Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said 200 people with minor injuries were being treated at a triage center. “ Some are more grotesque,” she said of the injuries.” 

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The tornado first touched down south of Moore, giving residents approximately 30-minutes of warning before it churned through Moore. The tornado is said to have been more than a half-mile in width with a two-to-two-and-one-half mile debris field whipping around the funnel.  With wind speeds up to 200mph, the tornado, classified as a “wedge” due to the wide base, is recorded as an EF-4 on the Fujita scale, the second most powerful type of twister.

From the Command Center at the Warren Theater, Governor Mary Fallin said: “Yesterday was bad, and today is even worse…We are concerned with search & rescue at this time”

Several out-of-state search and rescue teams are on the ground searching for survivors in Moore Oklahoma.

President Obama has offered Gov. Fallin all federal support available and the Oklahoma Army National Guard is deployed. Utility workers are already on scene working to restore phone and power lines while volunteers from the American Red Cross assist with the on-going search & rescue/relief efforts. The Red Cross has set up the website as a resource to check on loved ones in disaster areas that have been accounted for. 

Lamentably, Moore, Oklahoma was ravaged back on May 3, 1999 by 24 separate tornados within a 21-hour period with wind speeds estimated to have been above 300 mph, claiming the lives of 46 people, while injuring over 800 and causing property damage estimated at $1.5 Billion. The National Weather Service has confirmed that Oklahoma and Kansas have experienced 8 tornados Since Sunday.

Search and recovery efforts will continue through the night.

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Rich Valdes

Rich Valdes is a former official in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Administration, an award-winning marketing director, and manager who has led staff and projects for various colleges, state policy initiatives, celebrity entertainers, faith based organizations, and non-profit charities. Rich has run small businesses, created strategic messaging campaigns to increase college student enrollment revenue, and produced high-profile public relations events to raise awareness for various brands.

As a frequent  TV, radio, and print media contributor, Rich's commentary on social issues and popular culture have been featured on Hot 97 FM, CNN Headline News, Telemundo, Univision, HHR and Fox/My9. When not  debating, politics, education, and culture, Rich is a single dad, school board member, and Young Benefactor at VH1 Save The Music Foundation.  Rich attended New York University and is pursuing a Master’s degree at Lincoln University while raising his two young daughters and caring for his elderly father in the New York City suburb of Bergen County, New Jersey. 

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