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Oklahoma braces for more tornadoes, as severe storm system lingers (+video)

Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas, and southern Missouri faced a new series of tornadoes, heavy rain, and hail on Monday, as a massive storm system takes longer than usual to move through the nation's midsection.

By Staff writer / May 20, 2013


UPDATE: Tuesday 8 a.m.  EST

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A mile-wide tornado moved through the Oklahoma City area Monday afternoon, flattening homes and commercial buildings in Moore, Okla. A storm system spawned several tornadoes, as forecast, Monday.  At least 51 people were killed, including at least 20 children, and those numbers were expected to climb, officials said Tuesday.

Crews continued their desperate search-and-rescue effort throughout the Monday night at Plaza Towers Elementary, where the storm had ripped off the school's roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal as students and teachers huddled in hallways and bathrooms, the Associated Press reports.

Children from the school were among the dead, but several students were pulled out 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.

On Sunday, two people were killed and at least 21 people were injured after tornadoes ripped through central Oklahoma as part of a storm system moving northeast through the central portion of the US from Texas to Michigan. Forecasters confirm that a second series of storms will hit the same area by late Monday afternoon, with tornadoes, and hail the size of baseballs predicted in some areas.

The hardest-hit area so far is Shawnee, Okla., 35 miles west of Oklahoma City, where a tornado killed two people at the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park. Local officials say that, despite devastation that flattened many homes, every other resident was accounted for by late Sunday. 

“It looks like there's been heavy equipment in there on a demolition tour.... It's pretty bad. It's pretty much wiped out,” Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth told Fox News on Monday.

At least four tornadoes touched down in the state Sunday, as storms pounded much of western Oklahoma Saturday and then moved northeast of Oklahoma City on Sunday. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) declared disaster areas in 16 counties, and more than 23,000 power outages were reported throughout the state.

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