A massive mile-wide tornado slammed the town of Moore, Okla., just before 3 p.m. Monday. The tornado, which stayed on the ground for 40 minutes, tore through the southeastern suburb of Oklahoma City, wiping out neighborhoods, two schools and businesses.
The National Weather Service said the tornado reached wind speeds up to 200 mph. That places the tornado as an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale.
Dozens across the area are confirmed dead; 20 of those include children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. According to KFOR TV, due to a water main break, the children drowned and were found at the bottom of debris in a pool of water at Plaza Towers.
Briarwood Elementary School was also hit by the tornado. Many of those children were pulled out of the rubble alive. Students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades turned up at a church nearby.
Moore Medical Center was evacuated after it received a direst hit, a hospital spokeswoman said. All patients were evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Health Plex Hospital.
“We have the walking wounded showing up to our hospitals in Norman as well,” said Kelly Wells, a spokeswoman for Moore (Okla.) Medical Center, a campus of Norman (Okla.) Regional Health System. “We have a triage and we're prioritizing, depending on the level of the injuries.”
Christian Ministries Provide Relief Assistance
In the aftermath of Monday's tornado, First Baptist Church of Moore is serving as a command center for Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief teams. The church is accepting donations of new, unused items such as air mattresses, bedding, tooth brushes, toothpaste, bath towels, clothing, shoes, bottled water and ready-to-eat foods.
Church administrator Kyle Duncan of the First Baptist Church of Moore said there was a growing need for new items like air mattresses, household items, ready-to-eat foods, bottled water … and, of course, prayer.
“A lot of people at this point are shell-shocked more than anything,” Duncan said. “Our biggest concern is water because the city water is off. We’ve got all these people here with no running water. So, if you are talking about immediate prayer concerns that is a big one for us.”
Duncan said the church has experience in disaster relief as helped many get back on their feet after the tornado struck Moore in 1999.
“The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief trucks are here,” Duncan said. "They are ready to go for lunch. They cook those meals and the Red Cross delivers them to folks that don’t have any other way to eat. We’ve got every square inch of our parking and the entire building are filled with people helping.”
Crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team are being deployed to Moore, Okla. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is deploying in coordination with Samaritan's Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, who is also president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Together the two ministries will seek to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those impacted by the storm.
"Our hearts are breaking for all of those in the path of this horrific tornado. Words can't do justice to the pain that is being experienced in and around Moore," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. "Please pray continuously for all of those who lost loved ones, and for those who may still be trapped amidst the rubble."
International humanitarian relief organization Convoy of Hope, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross have also activated disaster relief teams.
Country music super star Toby Keith, who grew up in Moore, issued a statement about the deadly tornadoes.
“This storm has devastated the community that I grew up in. I rode my bike through those neighborhoods. I have family and friends in Moore. My heart and prayers go to those that have lost so much. But Moore is strong and we will persevere. God be with you all.”
This isn’t the first time Moore residents have experienced this kind of tragedy. It was one of the towns hit by a series of 74 tornadoes May 3, 1999, that left 46 dead and more than 8,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the region.
Early estimates report 60 square miles impacted by the tornado. According to the National Weather Service as many as 28 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa.
Churches are using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to organize relief efforts, shelters and meals for those in need. Moore Tornado Lost and Found on Facebook was created to help people connect with others and help share information about their whereabouts.
Those looking for unaccounted family members can also call 405-239-7141.
The following shelters have been set up for the victims of the May 20 tornado:
- University of Oklahoma – student housing (Norman)
- Oklahoma Baptist University – student housing (Shawnee)
- Graceway Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, located at 1100 S.W. 104th
- Oakcrest Church of Christ in Moore, located at 1111 S.W. 89th St.
- Victory Church in Oklahoma City, located at 4300 North MacArthur
- Journey Church in Norman, located at I-35 and Tecumseh Rd.
- Fifth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, located at 801 N.E. 5th St.
- St. Andrews Church, located at S.W. 119th and May
- Trinity Church of the Nazarene, located at 7301 S. Walker, just on the north side of I-240
If you are interested making a donation to help tornado victims, please contact Samaritan's Purse.
Russ Jones is a 25-year award-winning journalist and correspondent. He is co-publisher of various Christian news sites such as ChristianPress.com, ChristianNewsService.com, OxfordFamily.com and a media consultant to a number of political and cause-oriented campaigns. He is also a freelance correspondent for the American Family Radio Network, a regular contributor for ReligionToday.com, Crosswalk.com and various Christian TV networks. He has been a guest on such programs as the Mike Gallagher Show, the Dennis Prager Show and Sandy Rios in the Morning. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Paul School of Theology. Russ is married to Jackie and together they have four children. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook.com/russjones.
Publication date: May 21, 2013