MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- The state medical examiner's office has revised the death toll from a tornado in an Oklahoma City suburb to 24 people, including seven children.
Spokeswoman Amy Elliot said Tuesday morning that she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. Authorities said initially that as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children. It was also reported that were at least 40 bodies left to count.
Teams are continuing to search the rubble in Moore, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, after the Monday afternoon tornado.
CNN - Even for a city toughened by disaster, Moore has never seen this kind of devastation.
A massive, howling tornado pulverized a vast swath of the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, chewing up homes and businesses, and severely damaging a hospital and two elementary schools.
Hundreds of people were injured.
Firefighters, police, National Guard members and volunteers worked by flashlight overnight and into Tuesday morning, crawling across piles of debris in a determined search for survivors and victims. Air National Guard members brought in thermal imaging equipment to aid in the search.
More than 100 people had been pulled from the rubble alive since Monday afternoon, the state Highway Patrol said.
Early Tuesday, authorities asked news crews to move satellite trucks from the scene because the idling engines were making it difficult for rescuers to listen for the faint sounds of survivors beneath the rubble.
"We're a tough state. This is a tough community," Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told CNN on Tuesday. "There is hope. We always have hope. We always have faith."
At least 20 of those killed were children, including seven from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, the site of a frantic search since Monday afternoon.
The school was in the direct path of the storm. About 75 students and staff members were hunkered down in Plaza Towers when the tornado struck, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.
At one point, an estimated 24 children were missing from the school, but some later turned up at nearby churches. Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis told CNN on Tuesday morning that he had been told four people remained unaccounted for.
On Monday, a father of a third-grader still missing sat quietly on a stool outside. Tears cascaded from his face as he waited for any news.
Even parents of survivors couldn't wrap their minds around the tragedy.
"I'm speechless. How did this happen? Why did this happen?" Norma Bautista asked. "How do we explain this to the kids? ... In an instant, everything's gone."
Briarwood Elementary School also suffered a hit, KFOR reported.
Across town, Moore Medical Center also took a direct hit.
"Our hospital has been devastated," Mayor Glenn Lewis said. "We had a two-story hospital, now we have a one. And it's not occupiable."
So 145 of the injured were rushed to three other area hospitals.
That number includes 45 children taken to the children's hospital at Oklahoma University Medical Center, Dr. Roxie Albrecht said. Injuries ranged from minor to severe, including impalement and crushing injuries.
Not the first time
Moore, and the Oklahoma City region, are far too familiar with disaster. In 1995, 168 people died in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. In
1999 and then again in 2003, Moore took direct hits from tornadoes that took eerily similar paths to Monday's storm. The 1999 storm packed the strongest wind speeds in history, Lamb said.
This time, the two-mile-wide twister stayed on the ground for a full 40 minutes, carving a 22-mile path where thousands of residents live.
The tornado first touched down in Newcastle, Oklahoma, before ripping into neighboring Moore. An early estimate rated the tornado as an EF4, meaning it had winds between 166 and 200 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Lamb likened the destruction to a "two-mile-wide lawnmower blade going over a community."
State Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph told CNN affiliate KOKI that it "mass devastation."
"I'm talking everywhere you looked, the debris field was so high, and so far and so wide, wounded people walking around the streets," she said. "They were bloody, there were people that had stuff sticking out of them from things that were flying around in the air. There were cars crumpled up like little toys and thrown on top of buildings. Buildings that were two and three stories tall that were leveled."
Storm chaser Lauren Hill was part of a team that recorded video of the massive tornado as it ripped through town.
"You could actually feel the vibration from the tornado itself as it was approaching," she said.
"We still have a bit of PTSD," she said. "It's devastating."
After the ear-shattering howl subsided, survivors along the miles of destruction emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision. Homes and other buildings were shredded to pieces. Remnants of mangled cars were piled on top of each other. What used to be a parking lot now looked like a junkyard.
"People are wandering around like zombies," KFOR reporter Scott Hines said. "It's like they're not realizing how to process what had just happened."
The death toll has far surpassed anything the city has seen from a tornado -- and is expected to climb.
Hiding in freezers
Hines said rescuers found a 7-month-old baby and its mother hiding in a giant freezer. But they didn't survive.
At the devastated hospital in Moore, some doctors had to jump into a freezer to survive, Lamb said.
Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, described how the storm pummeled the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses before the storm hit.
"It was just like the movie 'Twister,' " Hite told KFOR. "There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere."
More trouble brewing
But the storm system that spawned Monday's tornado and several other twisters Sunday isn't over yet.
Southwest Arkansas and northeast Texas, including Dallas, are under the gun for severe weather Tuesday. Those areas could see large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.
A broader swath of the United States, from Texas to Indiana and up to Michigan, could see severe thunderstorms.
"We could have a round 3," CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said. "Hopefully, it won't be as bad."
The tornado sucked up debris along its path and swirled it several miles into the sky.
"The structures that were just demolished were picked up by the twister here and just jetted up into the atmosphere, 20,000 feet," Cabrera said.
James Dickens is not a firefighter or medic. He's actually a gas-and-oil pipeline worker. But that didn't stop him from grabbing a hard hat and joining other rescuers at Plaza Towers Elementary School.
"I felt it was my duty to come help," he said Tuesday after a long night of searching.
"As a father, it's humbling. It's heartbreaking to know that we've still got kids over there that's possibly alive, but we don't know."
PREVIOUS STORY: MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Several children have been pulled out of the rubble alive at a school in an Oklahoma City suburb. An Associated Press photographer saw several children being pulled out of what was left of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., on Monday after a massive tornado hit the region. Rescue workers lifted children from the rubble before they were passed down a human chain and taken to a triage center set up in the school's parking lot. The school is southwest of Oklahoma City. Its roof appears mangled and the walls had fallen in or had collapsed. The National Weather Service said the tornado's preliminary classification was an EF-4, with winds up to 200 mph. PREVIOUS STORY:
MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Authorities say an elementary school in an Oklahoma City suburb took a direct hit from a mile-wide tornado. Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department says there is no word of injuries from the elementary school. Knight says the school suffered "extensive damage" on Monday afternoon. He did not say which school was hit. Neighborhoods in Moore, Okla., are flattened and blown apart, with shards of wood and pieces of insulation strewn everywhere. Television footage also showed first responders picking through rubble and twisted metal in the suburb south of Oklahoma City. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The suburb of Moore was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. The storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.