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Oklahoma School Takes Direct Hit from Large Tornado

APMoore1

Live Audio Links: Oklahoma County Fire, EMS, Police
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Additional AP Update 10:32 pm ET
Officials at two hospitals say they've been treating more than 140 patients, including about 70 children, since a massive tornado hit suburban Oklahoma City.

Spokeswoman Brooke Cayot (KAY'-ot) says nine of 57 patients who are being treated at the Integris Southwest Medical Center were listed in critical condition after Monday afternoon's tornado. Nineteen were in serious condition and 29 were listed in fair or good condition.

She said five of the patients were children who have since been treated and released.

OU Medical Center spokesman Scott Coppenbarger says his hospital and a nearby children's hospital are treating approximately 85 patients, including 65 children.

He said those patients ranged from minor injuries to critical condition.

Additonal AP Update 9:12 p.m. ET:
The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office says a growing death toll from a massive tornado that struck outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon now stands at 51. Spokeswoman Amy Elliott says the death toll is again expected to rise. Elliott says children are among those killed by the storm.
- - -

MOORE, Oklahoma (AP) - A monstrous tornado of rare power roared through an Oklahoma City suburb, killing at least 51, flattening neighborhoods with winds up to 200 mph (320 kilometers) and destroying at least one school. Officials said children were among the dead.

The death toll was expected to rise, an Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office spokeswoman said. More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 70 children. Some were in critical condition.

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"Hearts are broken" for parents looking for their children, Governor Mary Fallin told a news conference.

The storm — less than 1 percent of all tornadoes reach such wind speed — ripped through scores of buildings in the suburb of Moore in a region of the U.S. known as Tornado Alley. Block after block lay in ruins. Cars and trucks were left crumpled.

The National Weather Service estimated that the tornado reached up to a half-mile (.8 kilometers) wide and was an EF-4 on the enhanced five-point Fujita scale, the second most powerful type of twister.

In video footage, the dark funnel cloud moved slowly across the landscape, scattering shards of wood, pieces of insulation, shingles and glass over the streets.

The focus quickly turned to Plaza Towers Elementary School, where the storm tore off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal.

Several children were pulled alive from the rubble. Rescue workers passed them down a human chain to a triage center in the parking lot.

James Rushing, who lives across the street, heard reports of the approaching tornado and ran to the school, where his 5-year-old foster son, Aiden, attends classes. Rushing believed he would be safer there.

"About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart," he said.

The students were put in the restroom.

After the tornado roaded through, Tiffany Thronesberry said she got a panicked call from her mother, Barbara Jarrell.

"I got a phone call from her screaming, 'Help, help! I can't breathe. My house is on top of me!'" Thronesberry said. She hurried to her mother's house, where first responders had already pulled her out with cuts and bruises.

Dangers remained. Downed power lines and open gas lines posed a risk Monday night, Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said.

The same suburb was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm produced the highest winds ever recorded near the Earth's surface — 302 mph (486 kph).

"Oklahoma City has had more tornado strikes than any other city in the United States," the city government's website says.

President Barack Obama called Fallin to express his concern.

Editor's Note:

Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) along with the Incident Support Team (IST) cache has been activated by FEMA through the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and will deploy from their facility in College Station to Oklahoma. The estimated time of departure is midnight. The team will assist the local jurisdictions in search and rescue operations across the affected area.  The 80 member TX-TF1 “White” Team is a Type 1 Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) Team consisting of Technical and Canine Search components along with Heavy Rescue personnel and equipment.  

Upon arrival, TX-TF1 will receive assignments from the local Incident Command and assist the jurisdictions as needed while setting up a Base of Operations (BoO) to continue the mission as long as necessary. The team is completely self-sufficient for 72 hours.

As a FEMA deployment future media updates will be coordinated through the local Joint Information Center (JIC).

Who is TX-TF1?
TX-TF1 is sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and has deployed over 90 times since 1997, including the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, Sept. 11th World Trade Center attack, and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. TX-TF1 can be activated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management or as one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 28 sanctioned urban search and rescue teams.

Members of TX-TF1 range from firefighters and medical personnel, to structural engineers, and come from all areas capable of reporting to College Station within a five-hour window.  The task force consists of three separate units of approximately 80 members each.  The teams rotate on a monthly standby, stand down or on call status.  The “White” Team is the task force currently on call for deployment.

Task Force Website: www.texastaskforce1.org
FaceBook: www.facebook.com/txtf1


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.



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