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May 22, 2013

Okla. officials vow not to quit looking until everyone is found

MOORE, Okla. — The tornado that killed 24 people and injured at least 100 others in the Moore and Oklahoma City area cut a 17-mile-long path that started in Newcastle and ended at Lake Stanley Draper. Nine of the dead are children.

At a press conference Tuesday, a tearful Gov. Mary Fallin said the tornado was one of the worst storms Oklahoma has ever faced. The destruction of two Moore elementary schools made it especially difficult to bear.

Fallin described walking through thick mud at the Plaza Towers Elementary school site. She said the scene was "surreal."

The two schools destroyed by the Monday afternoon tornado were Briarwood Elementary School at 14901 S. Hudson in Oklahoma City, Moore school district, and Plaza Towers, 852 SW 11th St., Moore.

Moore Schools Superintendent Susan Pierce, supported by her assistant superintendent, broke down while reading a prepared statement.

"I would like to extend my sincere sympathies," she said. "Our hearts go out to each of you, and we are suffering with you."

Pierce said safety is the district’s “prime priority” but she did not stay to answer questions regarding the school’s shelter policy.

Moore residents just approved a $126.4 million school bond that includes the construction of two elementary schools and one junior high school. It is the largest bond in the school’s history, but officials did not say whether tornado safe rooms will be included in the new schools as part of those projects. Recently built Norman schools, such as Reagan Elementary, have included several safe rooms in the design.

Pierce said Moore school system has a crisis plan in place, the schools were well prepared, and all schools implemented that plan at each school site. Search and rescue was ongoing, but was expected to conclude Tuesday night.

"We kept over 200 responders out in the field last night," said Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird. "We stayed at the school last night. We are still at Plaza Towers."

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