Oklahoma tornado toll: 13,000 homes, schools, hospital; cost: about $2B

2013-05-23T00:00:00Z Oklahoma tornado toll: 13,000 homes, schools, hospital; cost: about $2BThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

MOORE, Okla. - The tornado that struck an Oklahoma City suburb this week may have done $2 billion or more in damage as it tore through as many as 13,000 homes, multiple schools and a hospital, officials said Wednesday as they gave the first detailed account of the devastation.

At the same time, authorities released the identities of the 24 people, including 10 children, who perished. 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 physical destruction was staggering.

"The tornado that we're talking about is the 1 or 2 percent tornado," Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood said. The twister measured a top-of-the-scale EF5 with winds of at least 200 mph. "This is the anomaly that flattens everything to the ground."

As response teams transitioned into cleanup and recovery, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who sent police and fire crews from his city to help, 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.

Looking over the broken brick, smashed wood and scattered appliances that is all that remains of the home where Dawn Duffy-Relf's aunt lived with her two daughters, Duffy-Relf and her husband marveled at the devastation - and the survival rate.

Duffy-Relf credited central Oklahoma residents' instincts and habits: They watch the weather reports, they look at the sky, they know what they can and can't outrun.

"We know where we live," she said as she tried to salvage as much from the home as possible before her aunt returned from a vacation to Mexico.

While estimating that between 12,000 and 13,000 homes were affected by Monday's tornado, emergency officials said they were unable to estimate the number of people left homeless, in part because many had been taken in by relatives and only a couple of dozen stayed overnight at Red Cross shelters.

President Obama plans to view the destruction firsthand on Sunday. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Wednesday and again pledged the federal government's ongoing support.

She urged people to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to learn about aid for which they may qualify.

"We know that people are really hurting," she said. "There's a lot of recovery yet to do. … We will be here to stay until this recovery is complete. You have our commitment on that."

The victims

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office says it has positively identified all 24 people killed in the tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, including 10 children:

• Sydney Angle, 9

• Hemant Bhonde, 65

• Richard Brown, 41

• Antonia Candelaria, 9

• Emily Conatzer, 9

• Kyle Davis, 8

• Megan Futrell, 29

• Case Futrell, 4 months

• JaNae Hornsby, 9

• Leslie Johnson, 46

• Rick Jones, 54

• Christopher Legg, 9

• Terri Long, 49

• Nicolas McCabe, 9

• Jenny Neely, 38

• Cindy Plumley, 45

• Shannon Quick, 40

• Tewauna Robinson, 45

• William Sass, 63

• Randy Smith, 39

• Gina Stromski, 51

• Sydnee Vargyas, 7 months

• Karrina Vargyas, 4

• Deanna Ward, 70

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