- The tornado that struck an Oklahoma City suburb this week may have created $2 billion or more in damage as it tore through as many as 13,000 homes, multiple schools and a hospital, officials said yesterday as they gave the first detailed account of the devastation.
At the same time, authorities released the identities of some of the 24 people, including 10 children, who died. Authorities have also now accounted for the last six people - all of them adults - who were believed to still be missing.
Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis says five of the six were found safe yesterday. The other was discovered to be among the dead already accounted for by the state Medical Examiner's Office.
While anguish over the deaths was palpable as residents began picking up their shattered neighborhoods, many remained stunned that the twister didn't take a higher human toll during its 17 miles and 40 minutes on the ground.
"The tornado that we're talking about is the 1 or 2 percent tornado," Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood said of the twister, which measured a top-of-the-scale EF5 with winds of at least 200 mph.
As response teams transitioned into cleanup and recovery, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who sent police and fire crews from his city to assist the effort, said an early assessment estimated damage costs at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. The Oklahoma Insurance Department, meanwhile, said visual assessments of the extensive damage zone suggest the cost could be greater than the $2 billion from the 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., and killed nearly seven times as many people.
Though there was little more than 10 minutes' warning that a tornado was on the ground Monday and headed for Moore, many in the area are accustomed to severe storms. The community of 56,000 people has been hit by four tornados since 1998, and residents already were on alert after weekend storms and days of warnings. Because the tornado hit in the afternoon, many others were away from the neighborhoods and out of harm's way at work.
President Obama plans to view the destruction firsthand Sunday. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, meanwhile, visited yesterday and again pledged the federal government's ongoing support.