Alexa

Oklahoma tornado damage could top $2 billion

 AT&T employees sort through tangled phone lines as they clean up in a tornado-ravaged neighborhood Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge torn...
 Storm clouds build in the distance beyond tornado-ravaged homes Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma Cit...
 An unidentified man watches a rain storm from inside the garage of his tornado-damaged home Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge tornado roa...
 In this aerial photo, a person, lower right, stand in front of a home demolished home by Monday's tornado, in Moore, Okla., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Th...
 A firefighter watches vehicles pass by in front of a destroyed home north of SW 149th between Western and Santa Fe on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, after a ...
 This Tuesday, May 21, 2013 aerial photo shows homes damaged by Monday's tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. The huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City...
 Jeff Thayer, right, and his son Heath look at a tornado-ravaged pickup truck belonging to another son Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge t...
 A man carries a drawer and a bag filled with clothes from Rachel Hernandez' home as residents of the Heatherwood Addition, on the south side of SE 4 ...

Oklahoma Tornado

AT&T employees sort through tangled phone lines as they clean up in a tornado-ravaged neighborhood Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge torn...

Oklahoma Tornado

Storm clouds build in the distance beyond tornado-ravaged homes Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma Cit...

Oklahoma Tornado

An unidentified man watches a rain storm from inside the garage of his tornado-damaged home Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge tornado roa...

APTOPIX Oklahoma Tornado

In this aerial photo, a person, lower right, stand in front of a home demolished home by Monday's tornado, in Moore, Okla., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Th...

Oklahoma Tornado

A firefighter watches vehicles pass by in front of a destroyed home north of SW 149th between Western and Santa Fe on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, after a ...

APTOPIX Oklahoma Tornado

This Tuesday, May 21, 2013 aerial photo shows homes damaged by Monday's tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. The huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City...

Oklahoma Tornado

Jeff Thayer, right, and his son Heath look at a tornado-ravaged pickup truck belonging to another son Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge t...

Oklahoma Tornado

A man carries a drawer and a bag filled with clothes from Rachel Hernandez' home as residents of the Heatherwood Addition, on the south side of SE 4 ...

The cost of a massive tornado that battered an Oklahoma City suburb could be more than $2 billion, according to a preliminary estimate announced Wednesday by state officials.
Oklahoma Insurance Department Spokeswoman Calley Herth told The Associated Press that the early tally is based on visual assessments of the extensive damage zone stretching more than 17 miles (27 kilometers) and the fact that the tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes.
She said the financial cost of Monday's tornado in Moore could be greater than the $2 billion in damage from the 2011 tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri. Herth said that twister left a smaller trail of destruction.
With no reports of anyone still missing and with the death toll at 24 people, authorities and residents turned Wednesday toward assessing the damage and plotting a future course for Moore, a town of about 56,000 which was also hit by a massive tornado in 1999.
Authorities have yet to present concrete numbers for how many homes were damaged or destroyed, but the view from the air shows whole neighborhoods obliterated, with gouged earth littered with splintered wood and pulverized cars.
Dan Ramsey, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, said a damage estimate in the low billions is "not surprising."
"Certainly it's in the hundreds of millions," Ramsey said. "I suppose seeing projections from similar disasters, it could stretch to a billion" or more.
Helmeted rescue workers have been searching tirelessly for survivors and victims, and officials said Tuesday they planned to keep going _ sometimes double- and triple-checking home sites. Officials were not certain of how many homes were destroyed or how many families had been displaced. Emergency crews had trouble navigating devastated neighborhoods because there were no street signs left. Some rescuers used smartphones or GPS devices to guide them through areas with no recognizable landmarks.
Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird said Tuesday he was confident there are no more bodies or survivors in the rubble. Every damaged home had been searched at least once, Bird said, but his goal was to conduct three searches of each building just to be certain there were no more bodies or survivors.
From the air, large stretches Moore could be seen where every home had been cut to pieces. Some homes were sucked off their concrete slabs. A pond was filled with piles of wood and an overturned trailer. Also visible were large patches of red earth where the tornado scoured the land down to the soil. Some tree trunks were still standing, but the winds ripped away their leaves.
Officials had revised the death toll downward from 51 to 24 on Tuesday after the state medical examiner said some victims may have been double-counted in the confusion immediately after the storm. More than 200 people were treated at area hospitals.
The National Weather Service said the tornado was a top-of-the-scale EF5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph (321 kph) _ the first EF5 tornado of 2013.
Search-and-rescue teams focused their efforts at Plaza Towers Elementary School, where the storm ripped off the roof, knocked down walls and destroyed the playground as students and teachers huddled in hallways and bathrooms.
Seven of the nine dead children were killed at the school, but several students were pulled alive from under a collapsed wall and other heaps of mangled debris. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain of parents and neighborhood volunteers. Parents carried children in their arms to a triage center in the parking lot. Some students looked dazed, others terrified.
Plaza Towers and another school in Oklahoma City that was not as severely damaged did not have reinforced storm shelters, or safe rooms, said Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
President Barack Obama pledged to provide federal help and mourned the death of young children who were killed while "trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew _ their school."
___
Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Christopher Sherman, Nomaan Merchant, Sean Murphy and Tim Talley contributed to this report.