Tuesday, May 21, 2013

All LDS Missionaries In Central Oklahoma Safe And Accounted For After The Moore, Oklahoma Tornado; LDS Church Ramps Up Its Own Recovery Efforts

On May 21st, 2013, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported that all of its missionaries in central Oklahoma are safe and accounted for in the wake of the EF-5 tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th. Those missionaries will be temporarily re-directed from proselyting to relief. Local LDS leaders are working in partnership with local agencies to assist in community relief efforts, and are also establishing a relief operations center to coordinate supplies and volunteers.

Here's a video showing the beast itself. At one point, the tornado was only a half-mile away:


This video shot by KFOR's Chopper 4 right after the tornado passed shows the sheer magnitude of the destruction:


Here's the latest summary of the basic facts about the tornado. The first tornado warning went out around 2:40 p.m. CDT on Monday May 20th and just 16 minutes later, the tornado touched down about 4.4 miles west of Newcastle and began its 17-mile fatal track towards Moore, dissipating around 4.8 miles east of town. The National Weather Service says the tornado was a half-mile wide. The NWS originally reported the Moore tornado as an EF-4 on Monday May 20th but upgraded their rating to EF-5 on Tuesday May 21st after finding areas of damage consistent with EF-5 criteria. This is actually the third tornado to strike Moore since 1999; KFOR Channel 4 has superimposed the tracks of all three tornadoes HERE.

The death toll has now been revised downward from 51 to 24, including nine children; Oklahoma medical examiner spokeswoman Amy Elliot said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. Seven of the children were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which received a direct strike; although the school had a basement, it did not have a storm shelter because no funding was provided for one when the school was originally built. A total of 242 patients, including 58 children, have been treated at hospitals so far; lacerations, broken bones, and head and neck injuries were the most common conditions reported. Barack Obama has declared that part of Oklahoma a disaster area.

A count of the number of structures destroyed or damaged was not immediately available, but was said to be in the hundreds. The Daily Oklahoman has an entire section devoted exclusively to tornado stories for those wanting more details. Update March 22nd: First preliminary estimates show as many as 13,000 homes destroyed and up to $2 billion in damage.

How you can contribute to relief: In the short term, you can donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund here, and the organization also suggests giving blood at your local hospital or blood bank. Other donation options specified HERE.

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