MOORE — A massive F4 tornado with winds estimated at 200 mph spun through this city Monday afternoon, killing at least 51 persons and taking a path eerily close to the May 3, 1999, storm that killed nearly as many.
The tornado left a debris field miles wide and tens of miles long. Officials say more than 120 were injured and expect the death toll to climb as more victims are found. At least 20 of the victims are believed to be children.
President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma. He has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. National Guard members were deployed to assist with rescue operations
The storm formed southwest of the metro area and moved parallel to I-44 before turning east through Moore and parts of southwest Oklahoma City before eventually lifting near Lake Stanley Draper.
At a press conference outside Moore City Hall Monday evening, Gov. Mary Fallin and many Moore and Oklahoma City municipal officials made it very clear that search and rescue operations were ongoing and would be going on throughout Monday night, into this morning and very possibly beyond.
Fallin lamented it was not a new experience for the Moore community. The previous benchmark for tornadic destruction in the area occurred May 3, 1999, when an F5 tornado bore a very similar path through town.
“It’s just hard to believe something like this could happen again to Moore,” Fallin said. “Our prayers and thoughts are with the Oklahoma families that have been hit hard by this terrible storm.”
Still, the comparison between May 3, 1999, and Monday may only be geographically apt. Fourteen years ago, 43 were killed and damaged totaled more than $1 billion.
Monday’s tornado has already claimed a greater human toll and the destruction is breathtaking and almost indescribable. Monday’s tornado was the fourth to hit Moore since 1998. The city also was hit in 2003.