A massive tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, the hometown of U.S. Representative Tom Cole, on Monday May 20, killing at least two people and decimating a school with children inside.
Rescue workers were combing through wreckage seeking survivors late Monday afternoon after the mile-wide twister leveled much of the Oklahoma suburb.
“This is my neighborhood,” Cole said, speaking to CNN by phone just after the tornado passed through. “It’s pretty devastating stuff.”
A representative of his office said he would be traveling to the stricken region on Tuesday May 21 from his office in Washington, D.C.
Reporter Lance West broke down crying as he reported over the phone to CNN that 75 people had been in an elementary school, taking shelter in a hallway, and that rescuers were pulling third-graders out of the rubble, the New York Daily News reported.
KFOR News out of Oklahoma said that students reported being told to cling to the walls of the school as the tornado tore it apart around them.
Debris-clogged roads were hampering police and emergency crews, the Daily News said, but they were responding as quickly as they could. There was also at least one fire to contend with. Cole and others compared this tornado to one on May 3, 1999, which killed nearly 150 people and caused more than $1 billion in damages. The Daily News said that the 2013 one was even bigger.
Earlier in the day, as the region reeled from a spate of devastating tornadoes from the day before, the Cherokee Nation reached out to tornado victims in Shawnee, which was hit on Sunday. (Related: Tornadoes Slice Through Midwest, Threatening Indian Country)
“Today we extend our prayers to those Oklahomans who lost loved ones or were injured or displaced by yesterday’s tornadoes and powerful storms,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker in a statement of condolence. “None of us are strangers to the damaging effects of severe weather, and our hearts go out to everyone in the Shawnee area. The Cherokee Nation is steadfast in our commitment to help, and we have reached out to those affected by these terrible storms to offer our assistance and support. We will continue to stand with our fellow Oklahomans and fellow tribes during this very difficult time. God bless the victims of these storms, and God bless the people of Oklahoma.”
The tornado’s devastation was not done yet after the monster storm—some estimates went as high as two miles wide—kept going after leveling Moore.
“Ardmore, take shelter now,” the station wrote just after 6:30 p.m. in its online news feed. “Tornado headed for you.”