Okla. Tornado Damage May Top $2B 05/22 12:31
The cost of a massive tornado that battered an Oklahoma City suburb could be
more than $2 billion, according to a preliminary official estimate announced
Wednesday. State authorities meanwhile said two infants were among the 24
people who perished in the twister.
MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- The cost of a massive tornado that battered an Oklahoma
City suburb could be more than $2 billion, according to a preliminary official
estimate announced Wednesday. State authorities meanwhile said two infants were
among the 24 people who perished in the twister.
Oklahoma Insurance Department spokeswoman Calley Herth told The Associated
Press that the early damage tally is based on visual assessments of the
extensive disaster zone that stretches more than 17 miles and the fact that
Monday's tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes.
The financial cost of the tornado in Moore could be greater than the $2
billion in damage from the 2011 tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Mo.,
Herth said, adding that the Joplin twister left a smaller trail of destruction.
Authorities have yet to say how many homes were damaged or destroyed, but an
aerial view of the site 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.
The National Weather Service said the tornado was a top-of-the-scale EF5
twister with winds of at least 200 mph --- the first EF5 tornado of 2013.
With no reports of anyone still missing, the Oklahoma medical examiner's
office announced that it has positively identified 23 of the 24 people who died
in the tornado, and that 10 of those killed are children.
All of the children have been identified, among them 4-month-old Case
Futrell and 7-month-old Sydnee Vargyas. Both babies died from head injuries.
The eight other children ranged in age from 4 years to 9 years. Of those, six
were suffocated. The other two died from massive injuries.
Medical examiner's office spokeswoman Amy Elliott said they are still trying
to contact relatives of eight of the victims.
Authorities and residents of Moore have started to assess the damage and
plot a future course for Moore, a town of about 56,000 that was also hit by a
massive tornado in 1999.
Mayor Glen Lewis said Wednesday he would propose an ordinance in the next
couple of days to modify building codes to require that every new home in the
town would have a reinforced tornado shelter.
Lewis said he was confident he would get the four votes he needs on the
six-member council to pass the ordinance. The measure could be in force within
Underground safe rooms are typically built below garages and can cost around
Besides rebuilding or repairing, homeowners are likely to suffer other
expenses, including a rise in home insurance premiums, Ramsey said.
"Three years of hail bombardments of apocalyptic proportions and then this?
It has to result in some give someplace," he said.
Residents clearing massive piles of debris were also trying to get hold of
essentials like mobile phones and prescription drugs lost in the destruction.
Cellular service providers set up mobile retail outlets and charging stations.
At least one was offering free phone calls and loaner phones.
Insurance companies have also set up emergency operation centers to take
calls from people trying to get prescriptions filled and handle other health
The emotional trauma of the destruction compounded the tornado's cost.
With her son holding her elbow, 83-year-old Colleen Arvin walked up her
driveway Tuesday to see what was left of her home of 40 years.
Part of the roof was sitting in the front yard, and the siding from the
front of her home for the past 40 years was gone. As her son and grandsons
picked through what was left of her belongings, Arvin found some dark humor in
"Oh thank God," she said, laughing, when a grandson brought over her keys.
"We can get in the house."
Rescue workers have been searching tirelessly for survivors and victims,
despite the difficulty of navigating devastated neighborhoods because all the
street signs were gone. 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.
"I'm 98 percent sure we're good," Bird said.