The "superoutbreak" of twisters struck as night fell on Monday, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 45. Officials feared that many more bodies would be found as the day went on and the relief effort got under way. More tornado warnings were issued yesterday as massive storms swept through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi.
"The magnitude of this is just unprecedented", said Frank Keating, Governor of Oklahoma. "Hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and literally hundreds and hundreds of homes destroyed. A lot of people [are] homeless tonight. It certainly looks like a huge battle has taken place."
Around Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas, homes and cars had been tossed into the air and lay crumpled and shattered. Gas lines fractured and caught fire; power lines arced in the night sky, illuminating a scene from hell.
"It's all gone. It's all gone," said one stunned farmer, standing in the wreckage of his property. Mobile homes, always the worst hit by such disasters, were blown away, with some in Kansas swept into a lake. Cars were blown off motorway flyovers. More than two thousand homes were destroyed.
The death toll made this tornado the most serious since 90 people were killed in May 1985, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, and it was expected that more casualties would be found.
The vast system of storms - more than 70 tornadoes - included some of F-5 strength with winds of up to 300mph. The biggest was half a mile wide, with winds of over 250mph. It swept into Oklahoma City, moved into the centre of the city and then swept out again four hours later, leaving a city that looked like a scene from a war film, with a wreckage field 20 miles long. "Entire neighbourhoods were destroyed," said Captain Charles Allen of the Oklahoma City police.
Nothing could help them in Tornado Alley, page 3Reuse content