MOORE, Okla. (KDKA/AP) – The tornado carved a path of destruction Monday in Moore, Okla., and the National Weather Service has now upgraded it to an EF-5 tornado with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour.
So far, 24 people are confirmed dead, nine of them children; and more than 200 people have been injured. Authorities initially said as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.
But among the devastation, there are moments of hope.
The pictures seem unearthly. To imagine this was a town, but it’s now piles of rubble, debris and destroyed memories. But from one pile, a tiny life emerges.
A woman was reunited with her dog today, after the pet became trapped in the rubble during the devastating storm.
“Oh Patsy, Oh Patsy!” the owner called to her dog. “Bless his little, bitty heart.”
Meanwhile, parents at one school, Briarwood Elementary, were overcome with relief to hold their children safe in their arms.
The students emerged, stunned by what had happened and what was left of their school.
“All the desks were on top of us,” said Isabelle Rojas, a student. “And the teacher got stuck, and so somebody had to help her because the desk was on her leg.”
But tragically, just a mile away at Plaza Towers Elementary, some of the children did not survive. Seven are confirmed dead so far.
Rescuers searched through the night using thermal imaging cameras to find anyone buried under the rubble. They painted an “X” on every structure that had been checked.
“So we went under a bridge, he got hit with some rocks and stuff, but it was the scariest thing that I have ever went through,” said one storm victim.
The residents of Moore are unfortunately used to this. This is the fifth tornado to devastate that neighborhood since 1998. When the last big storm hit, officials and experts claimed this wouldn’t happen again for a 100 years, but they were wrong.
Now, people are salvaging what they can and taking all the help that’s coming their way.
“There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms and classrooms,” said President Barack Obama during an address to the nation this morning.
Prayers are what many of the people in Oklahoma say they need most.
The storm stripped leaves off trees and left scores of blocks barren and dark.
Rescuers walked through neighborhoods where Monday’s powerful twister flattened home after home, listening for voices calling out from the rubble. A helicopter buzzed above, shining lights on crews below.
The fire chief says he’s 98 percent sure all survivors and bodies have been recovered.
Meanwhile, President Obama has declared this a national disaster, allowing federal monies to flow for the rescue and clean-up.
Anyone wanting to donate to the tornado victims can do so through the Red Cross here: redcross.org or make out checks to “Oklahoma Relief Red Cross.”
Locally, Brother’s Brother Foundation is working to send three tractor-trailers of relief supplies, including blankets, water, shoes and more to the Church of the Harvest in Oklahoma City.
Brother’s Brother is accepting donations to help send more supplies to Oklahoma. If you would like to donate, you can do so by going online to www.brothersbrother.org or by calling (412)-321-3160.
Checks can be made out to:
Brother’s Brother Foundation/Oklahoma Tornadoes
1200 Galveston Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15233
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