Oklahoma City tornado: Latest developments
By CNN Staff updated 6:41 PM EDT,
'Mon May 20, 2013 Map: Moore, Oklahoma STORY HIGHLIGHTS
- NEW: Preliminary rating of the Moore tornado is at least EF-4 (166 to 200 mph)
- People are pulling students from a classroom at an elementary school
- Widespread damage clearly visible from helicopters
- Tornado was estimated to be two miles wide at one point
"The houses are destroyed. ... Completely leveled," a helicopter pilot for CNN affiliate KFOR said. A school was apparently among the structures leveled by the twister.
The tornado was estimated to be at least 2 miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, in the southern part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, KFOR reported. Video from CNN affiliates showed a funnel cloud stretching from the sky to the ground, kicking up debris.
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Tornados wreak havoc in Midwest Witness: Looked like the movie 'Twister' First images of damage from Okla. tornado Myers: Like a bowling ball went through See tornado break up over Oklahoma -- The preliminary rating of the Moore tornado is at least EF-4 (166 to 200 mph), the National Weather Service said on Monday afternoon.
-- Interstate 35 in Moore, Oklahoma, is closed as a result of debris from the tornado that hit the area Monday afternoon, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cole Hackett said. Crews were headed to the north-south highway to start the cleanup process, Hackett said.
-- "People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come," Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol, told CNN late Monday afternoon. She did not say how many people were trapped. "Send your prayers heavenward because there are people fighting for their lives."
-- The National Guard has been activated in response to the tornado, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Ann Lee said.
-- Will Rogers World Airport reopened around at about 6 p.m. ET, spokeswoman Karen Carney said. All flights are delayed, and at least six flights have been canceled, she said.
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-- Lance West, a reporter for CNN affiliate KFOR, said people late Monday afternoon were pulling students from a classroom at an elementary school heavily damaged by the tornado that hit Moore. There are no immediate reports on the condition of the children.
-- Congressman Tom Cole, who lives in Moore, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday afternoon the damage he saw on TV looks as bad as a 1999 tornado that destroyed more than 1,000 houses in his hometown.
-- McClain County Undersheriff Bill Shobe reported monday afternoon there is significant damage near Newcastle, Oklahoma. Shobe went on to say there are a lot of structures with damage north of Newcastle and in the town of Tuttle. Most of the damage is parallel to Highway 37, he said.
-- Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma was evacuated after it sustained damages from the tornado, a hospital spokeswoman told CNN's Sarah Baker. All patients are being evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Health Plex Hospital, and residents injured in the storm are being told to go to those centers as well.
-- Areas of metropolitan Oklahoma City appeared to be in shreds Monday afternoon.
-- A tornado struck just Moore, Oklahoma, south of Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon, ripping apart homes and other buildings in populated areas. The National Weather Service issued a rare tornado emergency for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, meaning that significant and widespread damage and fatalities were likely.
Meteorologists warned residents to go underground to survive a direct hit from the tornado.
Tornado brings back terrible memories of 1999