Search for Moore Tornado Survivors Nearly Complete - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Search for Moore Tornado Survivors Nearly Complete

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Photo from the Oklahoma National Guard Photo from the Oklahoma National Guard
The massive tornado leveled entire neighborhoods in Moore, Oklahoma. The massive tornado leveled entire neighborhoods in Moore, Oklahoma.
MOORE, Oklahoma -

Authorities say they have almost finished the search for survivors of Monday’s deadly tornado that ripped through Moore.

The fire chief said he was confident there are no more bodies or survivors in the rubble.

"I'm 98 percent sure we're good," Gary Bird said Tuesday at a news conference with the governor, who had just completed an aerial tour of the disaster zone.

Authorities were so focused on the search effort that they had yet to establish the full scope of damage along the storm's long, ruinous path.

The death toll was revised downward to 24 from 51 after the state medical examiner said some victims may have been counted twice in the confusion.

By Tuesday afternoon, every damaged home had been searched at least once, Bird said. His goal was to conduct three searches of each building just to be certain there were no more bodies or survivors.

The fire chief was hopeful that could be completed before nightfall but efforts were being hampered by heavy rain. Crews also continued a brick-by-brick search of the rubble of a school that was blown apart with many children inside.

No additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night, Bird said.

The massive twister at least a half mile wide left a path of destruction of about 30 square miles. The National Weather Service classified the tornado as a top-of-the-scale EF-5.

"We will rebuild, and we will regain our strength," said Fallin, who went on a flyover of the area and described it as "hard to look at."

Entire neighborhoods were flattened and two schools took direct hits. Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School were damaged in the storms.

Both schools are near Southwest 19th Street and Santa Fe Avenue. Students at Briarwood were all accounted for.

At Plaza Towers Elementary School, the storm tore off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal.

Children from the school were among the dead, but several students were pulled alive from the rubble. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain to the triage center in the parking lot.

The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister.

White House officials said Monday that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to tell her that President Barack Obama had directed federal emergency management officials and his administration to ensure no needs go unmet following the devastating tornado.

Monday's tornado followed a path very similar to the deadly F5 tornado of May 3, 1999.

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