Woman on alert in scary Tornado Alley

SARAH DUNN AND AP
Last updated 13:00 23/05/2013
tornado Oklahoma
WILD: A tornado photo from Oklahoma tweeted by the National Weather Service in the US.

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A Nelson mother has been on tornado watch in Texas ever since a disastrous tornado killed 24 people in Oklahoma on Monday.

Tahunanui resident Tes Jarden was visiting her father Tony Greer at his home in Dallas when the unusually powerful tornado ripped through homes and an elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma.

The storm generated wind speeds of up to 320 kilometres an hour, and the path of destruction it left behind measured 27 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide.

Miss Jarden and her family were initially concerned about a cousin of her father who lived just a block from the edge of the disaster zone, but it turned out the relative's house was unaffected.

"People were shocked, scared," she said. "It was on TV all night."

The Oklahoma tornado may be over, but Miss Jarden said conditions in Dallas were now favourable for a tornado. Like Moore, Dallas is considered part of the infamous "Tornado Alley" area.

"All today and last night we've been on tornado watch," she said. "There's been storms going on for the last three days."

If a tornado does touch down, the family plans to get in the car and drive to the nearest shelter. Miss Jarden's children are safe in Christchurch, but she said she had received lots of messages from worried friends and family in New Zealand.

She said she was not concerned as long as her father was around, as he is an experienced firefighter who has dealt with tornados.

"I know my dad will keep me safe," she said.

Meanwhile, the cost of the tornado's destruction in Oklahoma could be more than US$2 billion (NZ$2.47b), according to a preliminary estimate announced today by state officials.

Oklahoma Insurance Department spokeswoman Calley Herth said the early tally is based on visual assessments of the extensive damage zone stretching more than 27 kilometres and the fact that the tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes.

She said the financial cost of Tuesday's tornado in Moore could be greater than the US$2b in damage from the 2011 tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri. Ms Herth said that twister left a smaller trail of destruction.

Authorities have yet to present concrete numbers for how many homes were damaged or destroyed, but the view from the air shows whole neighbourhoods obliterated.

Emergency crews had trouble navigating devastated neighbourhoods because there were no street signs left.

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Moore fire chief Gary Bird said yesterday he was confident there were no more bodies or survivors in the rubble.

- Nelson

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