Deadly Tornadoes Strike Oklahoma, Other States

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More tornadoes raked across the south and Midwest Tuesday night and early Wednesday. Oklahoma was particularly hard hit as a series of strong twisters skipped across the state.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms have again lashed the middle of the country in the last hours, causing widespread damage and leaving at least 13 dead. Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and especially Oklahoma were all hit overnight, and rescue and cleanup efforts are underway this morning.

NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Oklahoma City, and she joins us.

And Cheryl, another major tornado in Oklahoma, this time in and around Oklahoma City. What does the area look like there?

CHERYL CORLEY: Well, I think the word that sums it up is just smashed. You have smashed houses. You have smashed cars, broken windows and trees and, again, the loss of life - lives in this area. Also, in one county here, the search continues for a three-year-old toddler. Two of that toddler's siblings were found. So it's just a real tragedy, again, occurring in this area. And you can see it especially in the way it looks.

There is some major damage in - I went to one area near Oklahoma City here called Piedmont. It is in bad shape. I went to the Red Cross shelter and I talked to one young man, Joshua Michael, whose house had just been obliterated by the tornado.

Mr. JOSHUA MICHAEL: The entire neighborhood got leveled, except for two houses towards the end of it. We had a little scare with one of the families. The house actually - a part of it collapsed onto their - the door of their cellar. So a couple of us guys just kind of moved stuff out of the way and got them out. But everybody was safe, which is good.

MONTAGNE: Cheryl, you're there in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There were also warning sirens during the night in Joplin, Missouri - of course, the area where more than 120 people died as a result of a tornado on Sunday evening.

Do officials there in Joplin still believe that they might find people alive in the rubble?

CORLEY: Well, I think they're still somewhat optimistic - not as much as they were before they went through another event of heavy rain and all of that again this past evening. But the fire commissioner there, Mitch Randles, says that they are, you know, conducting what he calls third and fourth searches of the area. So they're optimistic.

Chief MITCH RANDLES (Joplin Fire Department): We're hoping to find more folks, and that's why we're doing these searches. We want to make every opportunity we can to find everybody that is still in the rubble and has survived, to this point, out of that.

CORLEY: And it's very interesting the types of searches that they're doing. And they had a search-and-rescue team at a Home Depot, where they thought that they might be able to find individuals there. And they have to be very careful with the equipment that that they have. So it's very refined and very careful. And, like Mitch Randles says, they're doing these third and fourth searches in the hopes of finding people.

MONTAGNE: And that - yeah, finding people now. We're into the third day of rescue. Hopefully, they will find some more people alive.

You've been driving around the area from Joplin to Oklahoma City. And what did it look like? What have people been telling you?

CORLEY: What I can say, Renee, is that there are so many people who are out helping each other during this. I can tell you that in Joplin, Missouri, for instance, the houses are just simply not there. All you have left for many of those places is just timber. And the trees look like little twigs that are just stripped bare, and cars that are smashed and turned upside down.

But you have the spirit there with people who are coming out to help, lots of volunteers coming in to clear away trees, to cut down trees that are laying on tops of houses. So as you travel throughout the area, those are the kinds of things that you see, you know, just this vast destruction, but all these people trying to help their neighbors.

MONTAGNE: Cheryl, thanks very much.

CORLEY: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Cheryl Corley, speaking to us from Oklahoma City.

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