Moore, Okla. —
Many houses have “just been taken away. They’re just sticks and bricks,” the governor said, describing the 17-mile path of destruction.
More than 200 people have been treated at hospitals.
The National Weather Service said the tornado was an EF5 twister, the most powerful type, with winds of at least 200 mph.
The agency upgraded the tornado from an EF4 on the enhanced Fujita scale to an EF5 based on what a damage-assessment team saw on the ground, spokeswoman Keli Pirtle said Tuesday.
The weather service says the tornado’s path was 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.
Emergency crews were having trouble navigating neighborhoods because the devastation was so complete, and there are no street signs left standing, Fallin added.
Other search-and-rescue teams focused their efforts at Plaza Towers Elementary, where the storm ripped off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal as students and teachers huddled in hallways and bathrooms.
Seven of the nine dead children were killed at the school, but several students were pulled alive from under a collapsed wall and other heaps of mangled debris. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain of parents and neighborhood volunteers. Parents carried children in their arms to a triage center in the parking lot. Some students looked dazed, others terrified.
Officials were still trying to account for a handful of children not found at the school who may have gone home early with their parents, Bird said Tuesday.
Many parents of missing schoolchildren initially came to St. Andrews United Methodist Church, which had been set up as a meeting site. But only high school students were brought to the church, causing confusion and frustration among parents of students enrolled at Plaza Towers. They were redirected to a Baptist church several miles away.