Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

May 22, 2013

Oklahoma tornado damage could top $2 billion

MOORE, Okla. (AP) — The cost of a massive tornado that battered an Oklahoma City suburb could be more than $2 billion, according to a preliminary official estimate announced Wednesday. State authorities meanwhile said two infants were among the 24 people who perished in the twister.

Oklahoma Insurance Department spokeswoman Calley Herth told The Associated Press that the early damage tally is based on visual assessments of the extensive disaster zone that stretches more than 17 miles and the fact that Monday's tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes.

The financial cost of the tornado in Moore could be greater than the $2 billion in damage from the 2011 tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Mo., Herth said, adding that the Joplin twister left a smaller trail of destruction.

Authorities have yet to say how many homes were damaged or destroyed, but an aerial view of the site shows whole neighborhoods obliterated, with gouged earth littered with splintered wood and pulverized cars.

Dan Ramsey, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, said a damage estimate in the low billions is "not surprising."

"Certainly it's in the hundreds of millions," Ramsey said. "I suppose seeing projections from similar disasters, it could stretch to a billion" or more.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was a top-of-the-scale EF5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph — the first EF5 tornado of 2013.

With no reports of anyone still missing, the Oklahoma medical examiner's office announced that it has positively identified 23 of the 24 people who died in the tornado, and that 10 of those killed are children.

All of the children have been identified, among them 4-month-old Case Futrell and 7-month-old Sydnee Vargyas. Both babies died from head injuries. The eight other children ranged in age from 4 years to 9 years. Of those, six were suffocated. The other two died from massive injuries.

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