For the fourth day in a row, Oklahoma was hit by tornadoes with the worst happening at Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City some ten miles to the north. Scene of the infamous May 3, 1999 tornado which killed 46 people and destroyed some 8,000 homes and buildings, Moore suffered again as a two-mile wide twister smashed and tore about 60 square miles. Monday′s tornado is estimated to have been at least an EF-4, packing wind speeds of 190 to 200 MPH. The tornado lasted some 45 minutes as it cut a path of destruction, destroying whole neighborhoods and demolishing two elementary schools, Briarwood and Plaza Towers. Gov. Mary Fallin is directing relief efforts as local officials contend with 51 confirmed dead, including 20 children and at least 40 missing children from the two schools. Countless others may also still be trapped in their underground storm shelters, now buried under piles of debris. The National Weather Service gave residents a 16-minute warning which helped saved many lives. The worst of the U.S. tornadoes was on March 18,1925, known as the Tri-State Outbreak, killing 695 people in Missouri, Indiana and Illinois.

UPDATE 5/22/2013: Thankfully, the death toll has been revised downward. According to officials, 24 people were killed in Monday’s tornado. Only 9 were children, 7 of which died when the walls collapsed at the Plaza Tower Elementary School. Police and fire officials say that they do not expect to find any more people trapped in debris, nor any more dead bodies.

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The tragic event began around 2pm Central Time as a super-cell storm thundered across the Oklahoma plains. One of the first tragedies as the massive, killer tornado touched ground was the destruction of a horse ranch outside of Moore, killing about 100 horses. The twister followed a path very similar to that of the 1999 EF-5 tornado, moving Southwest to Northeast. With only a few minutes of warning, residents of Moore took shelter wherever they could find it. James Rushing told Fox News that he lived across the street from the Plaza Tower Elementary School. He decided to go there to find one of his five foster children. But, just as he arrived, the tornado did as well, tearing the roof off and collapsing the structure. Rushing survived inside a bathroom with other children, but luckily, found his after the tornado had passed. However, his home had also been totally destroyed.

Search and rescue efforts will continue today, and possibly for several days to come, given the damage done in Moore, Oklahoma by tornadoes. Gov, Mary Fallin is advising citizens to take heed of warnings by the National Weather Service for a potential fifth day of thunderstorms which may produce more tornadoes. Oddly enough, the spring tornado season had been a quiet one so far, with some 500 fewer than normal. Monday′s tornado which hit Moore was very similar to the one which caused enormous destruction in 1999.