Deadly Oklahoma tornado was 2 miles wide, EF-4

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by Associated Press

khou.com

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 5:14 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 21 at 8:36 AM

MOORE, Okla. -- A monstrous tornado as much as two miles wide with winds up to 200 mph roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school.

At least two dozen people were killed, including several children at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

The storm laid waste to scores of buildings in Moore, south of the city. Block after block of the community lay in ruins, with heaps of debris piled up where homes used to be. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside.

The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister.

Volunteers and first responders were searching through debris looking for survivors. Television footage showed responders picking through rubble and twisted metal.

Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said downed power lines and open gas lines posed a risk in the aftermath of the system.

The storm seemed to blow neighborhoods apart instantly, scattering shards of wood and pieces of insulation across the scarred landscape.

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

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman had predicted a major outbreak of severe weather Monday in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Storms on Sunday killed two people near Shawnee, about 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Gov. Mary Fallin earlier Monday took a tour of the areas hardest hit and she expressed concern that, with power out, Oklahomans might not receive warnings about the new round of storms.

Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said a 79-year-old man, who was later identified as Glen Irish, was found dead Sunday out in the open at Steelman Estates, a mobile home park near Shawnee. The state medical examiner's office said Monday that a 76-year-old man, Billy Hutchinson, was found dead in a vehicle.

The office said both men lived in Shawnee, but the city wasn't hit by the tornado and it wasn't immediately clear if either or both lived in the mobile home park, which is near the city.

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