Ten children - including two infants - are among those killed by a monster tornado that slashed through parts of Oklahoma City and this suburb Monday afternoon.
Seven of the children killed were huddled inside Plaza Towers Elementary School, taking shelter from the storm that struck about 3 p.m. Also killed were a woman, Megan Billingsley Futrell, 29, and her 3-month-old son, Case, inside a 7-Eleven convenience store.
Officials say 20 of the 24 people killed in the storm were residents of Moore, a city of about 56,000 people immediately south of Oklahoma City. The others were from Oklahoma City.
The State Medical Examiner released a partial list of the victims Wednesday morning. One person has not yet been identified, and families have not been contacted for eight others.
The tornado cut a 17-mile path, beginning in Newcastle, Okla., and ending at Lake Stanley Draper. It touched down at 2:45 p.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m., said Rick Smith, warning coordinator at the National Weather Service.
The EF-5 tornado - the top of the scale based on damage and windspeed - packed winds stronger than 200 mph. Its patch was eerily similar to that of an EF-5 tornado that struck Moore in May 1999. That storm - with 302 mph winds, the strongest ever recorded on the earth's surface - killed 41 people and caused $1 billion in damage.
At a news conference yesterday, an emotional Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday's storm was one of the worst the state has ever experienced. The destruction of two Moore elementary schools - Plaza Towers and Briarwood, which is physically located in Oklahoma City - made it especially difficult to bear, she said.
Search and rescue crews - comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as personnel from Tinker Air Force Base - were expected to finish their work Tuesday night. They had found no additional victims or survivors in the rubble Tuesday, said Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird.
“We will be through every damaged piece of property in this city at least three times before this is done," he said.
Moore Schools Superintendent Susan Pierce said during Tuesday's press conference that safety is the district's "prime priority." The Moore schools have a crisis plan, she said, and were well prepared.
However, it remains unclear if the district is requiring storm shelters or safe rooms in two new elementary schools and a junior high school just approved as part of a $126.4 million bond. Schools recently built in nearby Norman include safe rooms as part of the design.
In Moore, about 10 percent of homes include shelters or safe rooms, according to the city's emergency management coordinator, Gayland Kitch. Many were constructed after the 1999 tornado as part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program, which reimburses homeowners up to $2,000 for shelters that can cost $3,000 or more.
But not everyone who wants to build a shelter has received help.
In January, about 500 residents of Cleveland County, which includes Moore, learned safe room assistance wasn't available even after they were selected in a local lottery to participate. The federal grant was held up, local officials said, because the area hadn’t had a significant tornado during the prior year.
Details for this story were reported by The Norman, Okla., Transcript.