By MELINDA WILLIAMS
and Associated Press reports
A pair of Pulaski County first responders is on standby, waiting to see if they will be needed to help with tornado recovery efforts after a large tornado leveled much of an Oklahoma City suburb Monday afternoon.
Josh Tolbert, Pulaski County’s emergency management coordinator, said he and Brad Wright are part of Virginia’s Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) Advance Team that would respond if needed. However, he said they had not been requested as of late Monday night. “It may take days for resource orders to exhaust what is available closer to Oklahoma,” he added.
The EMAC Advance Team is a state-to-state mutual aid system established by Congress in 1996. Jason C. Eaton, chief logistics section mutual aid coordinator for Virginia Department of Emergency Management told Tolbert he has notified Oklahoma authorities of the team’s capabilities should they be needed.
Roger Hudson, disaster services manager with the New River Valley Chapter of American Red Cross, said late Monday that recruitment for volunteers to travel to Oklahoma was in its early stages and he was unsure at that time whether anyone from Pulaski County would be responding.
According to Associated Press, search and rescue crews worked through the night for survivors of the “monstrous” tornado that barreled through Moore, Okla., demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of splintered wood. At least 24 people were killed, including at least 7 children, and those numbers were expected to climb, officials said Tuesday morning.
The storm stripped leaves off trees and left scores of blocks in Moore barren and dark. Rescuers walked through neighborhoods where Monday’s powerful twister flattened home after home, listening for voices calling out from the rubble. A helicopter buzzed above, shining lights on crews below.
As Monday turned into Tuesday, the town of Moore, a community of 41,000 people 10 miles south of the city, braced for another long, harrowing day.
“As long as we are here … we are going to hold out hope that we will find survivors,” said Trooper Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 50 children. Amy Elliott, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office, said Tuesday that there could be as many as 40 more fatalities from Monday’s tornado.
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.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., forecast more stormy weather today, but the area at risk does not include Moore, Okla.
Monday’s powerful tornado loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region with 300 mph winds in May 1999. It was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998.