MOORE, Okla. — All that is left of Shayne Patterson’s three-bedroom home is the tiny area where his wife hunkered down under a mattress to protect their three children when a tornado packing winds of at least 200 mph slammed through his neighborhood.
Patterson vowed to rebuild, likely in the same place, but said next time he will have an underground storm shelter.
“That is the first thing that will be going into the design of the house, is the storm shelter and the garage,” he said as he looked around piles of bricks and plywood where their home once stood.
Patterson’s home was among as many as 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed Monday when the twister plowed through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. About 33,000 people were affected, officials said, though the number left homeless was still unknown because most of the displaced were believed to have been taken in by relatives; only two dozen or so have stayed overnight at Red Cross shelters.
Officials estimated the damage could top $2 billion.
At the same time, more details emerged on the human toll, including heartbreaking stories about the final moments of some of the children who were among the 24 people killed. One elementary school was reduced to rubble when the tornado hit. Another was heavily damaged.
While anguish over the deaths was palpable as residents began picking up their shattered neighborhoods, many remained stunned that the twister didn’t take a higher human toll during its 40 minutes on the ground.
“The tornado that we’re talking about is the 1 or 2 percent tornado,” Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood said of the twister, which measured a top-of-the-scale EF5 with winds of at least 200 mph. “This is the anomaly that flattens everything to the ground.”
With all of the missing now accounted for, response teams transitioned into cleanup and recovery, and authorities formally allowed residents back into the damage zone Wednesday to start the monumental task of rebuilding their lives.