Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Oklahoma tornado damage: almost $2 billion

MOORE, Okla. — Two days after a huge tornado barreled through this working-class town, authorities reopened the worst-hit neighborhoods for the first time Wednesday, giving residents a few hours to search for wedding rings, retrieve abandoned pets and pry apart a briar patch of rubble to see what had survived, and what had not.

At 3 p.m. the police and military members who had been barricading the streets stepped aside to allow scores of people back into their wrecked neighborhoods. Some went in on foot, pulling their children in red wagons. Some drove pickups loaded with equipment. People carried tarps and tubs, crowbars and chain saws and anything else that could help them sift through the heaps of what had once been their houses.

Most had been home during the twister or its immediate aftermath, and knew what to expect. Others had been on vacation or out of town when the tornado struck Monday afternoon, and had been allowed back for only enough time to grab a bottle of pills or snap a cellphone photo.

On Wednesday, they got the full picture. Brick walls lay in heaps. A sports car rested belly-up in someone's living room. Beds and couches lay shredded like wisps of cotton. Some homes seemed to have been wiped clean off their foundations. Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven students died, looked as if it had been hit by a bomb.

"All you can say is it's a complete disaster," said Doug Stills, 73, a longtime Moore resident whose son's home was flattened.

With search efforts winding down and officials saying that they did not expect to find any more bodies in the rubble, Wednesday's homecoming marked a first step in the long and expensive process of rebuilding Moore after yet another deadly tornado. Officials said the storm had caused as much as $2 billion in damage, pummeling 12,000 homes and affecting 33,000 people.

"People are really hurting," Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, said at a news conference here with local officials. "There's a lot of recovery to do." President Barack Obama plans to tour the damaged areas Sunday.

Amid the cleanup, families across the area were planning funerals and grieving for the 24 people killed in the storm.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office identified the victims and said that 10 of them were children, one more than had been previously reported. The cause of death in almost every case was either blunt force trauma or asphyxia.

To residents, the number of children on the list was heartbreaking. There was Christopher Legg, 9, who loved football so much that he played on two teams — the Rough Riders and the Red Eagles. He had suffered from melanoma and Osgood-Schlatter disease, which caused a painful limp. But his family said Christopher, a third-grader, faced the diseases with strength and optimism.

"He was a very outgoing kid, always willing to help out," Brian Trumbly, a cousin, said in an interview. "He loved his parents very much."

The family's home was also destroyed in the storm.

Christopher was one of the seven children killed inside Plaza Towers Elementary. There was also Janae Hornsby, 9, who was described by her family's pastor as a "beautiful little girl" who made people feel happy just to know her. There was 9-year-old Emily Conatzer, whose mother, Kristi, posted a Facebook message saying she had hoped she would wake up Wednesday to see Emily jumping around and giggling. And there was Kyle Davis, 8, who played soccer and went to monster-truck shows.

On Wednesday afternoon, Athena Delgado paused as she walked past the crumbled school. Her son Xavier had been trapped inside Monday, and six of his classmates had died. Xavier, his hands sheathed in floppy gloves to dig through the rubble of his family's home, ran down the street, laughing. He paused for a moment to look at the school.

"He says he's fine," Delgado said, looking at her son, "but it'll hit him."

The victims

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office says it has positively identified all 24 people killed in the tornado:

Adults: Terri Long, 49 • Megan Futrell, 29 • Shannon Quick, 40 • Jenny Neely, 38 • Cindy Plumley, 45 • Deanna Ward, 70 • Rick Jones, 54 • William Sass, 63 • Gina Stromski, 51 • Tewauna Robinson, 45 • Randy Smith, 39 • Leslie Johnson, 46 • Hemant Bhonde, 65 • Richard Brown, 41.

Children: Case Futrell, 4 months • Sydnee Vargyas, 7 months • Karrina Vargyas, 4 • Antonia Candelaria, 9 • Kyle Davis, 8 • Janae Hornsby, 9 • Sydney Angle, 9 • Emily Conatzer, 9 • Nicolas McCabe, 9 • Christopher Legg, 9.

Oklahoma tornado damage: almost $2 billion 05/22/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  2. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  3. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding (w/video)


    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  4. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida


    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]