May 23, 2013

Oklahoma twister could become costliest ever

Authorities estimate the damage at as much as $2 billion, with as many as 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

The Associated Press

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Danielle Stephan holds boyfriend Thomas Layton as they pause between salvaging through the remains of a family member's home one day after a tornado devastated the town Moore, Oklahoma, in the outskirts of Oklahoma City May 21, 2013. Rescuers went building to building in search of victims and thousands of survivors were homeless on Tuesday after a massive tornado tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, wiping out whole blocks of homes and killing at least 24 people. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

REUTERS

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A pile of destroyed cars of teachers sits outside Briarwood elementary school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 22, 2013. Rescue workers with sniffer dogs picked through the ruins on Wednesday to ensure no survivors remained buried after a deadly tornado left thousands homeless and trying to salvage what was left of their belongings. Curvature of horizon in the photo is due to an ultra-wide angle lens. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

REUTERS

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"If you take appropriate action, you go to your safe place, you can dramatically increase the probability you'll survive," he said.

To Brooks, the Joplin tornado was the oddity in terms of lives lost. That tornado struck on a Sunday evening two years ago this week.

"It's a number that I really don't understand what led to that," he said. "It could be the timing, 5:30 on a Sunday night, or bad luck. That was the outlier."

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 dozen stayed overnight at Red Cross shelters.

President Barack Obama plans to view the destruction firsthand Sunday. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, meanwhile, 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."

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Additional Photos

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Susan Kates salvages items from a friend's tornado-ravaged home Wednesday, May 22, 2013, in Moore, Okla. Cleanup continues two days after a huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb, flattening a wide swath of homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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Penny Phillips throws out a bag of salvaged clothing as she goes through the remains of her home on Tuesday in Moore, Okla.

AP

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Ethan, 7, carries books he recovered from his damaged house in Moore, Oklahoma, two days after the Oklahoma City suburb was left devastated by a tornado on May 22, 2013. Tornado survivors thanked God, sturdy closets and luck in explaining how they lived through the colossal twister that devastated an Oklahoma town and killed 24 people, an astonishingly low toll given the extent of destruction. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

REUTERS



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