A monstrous tornado as much as a mile 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.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but 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 first-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.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry released the following statement in response to the tornado damage in Oklahoma:
“The images emerging from Oklahoma today are a terrifying reminder of how quickly the force of Mother Nature can devastate entire communities. Our hearts are heavy for all Americans who have been affected by the recent outbreak of storms across our country. State emergency assets in Texas will remain on alert and stand ready to help our neighbors any way we can.”