Oklahoma Tornado Could Cost $2 Billion [VIDEO]
The Oklahoma Insurance Department says a preliminary estimate suggests the cost of the tornado that hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore could be more than $2 billion.
Spokeswoman Calley Herth tells The Associated Press that the early tally of damages is based on visual assessments of an extensive damage zone stretching more than 17 miles and the fact that the tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes.
She says the monetary damage caused by Monday's tornado could be greater than the $2 billion in damage from the 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., which left a smaller, three-mile trail of destruction.
FEMA: We Won't Leave When Cameras Do
The State and federal officials in Oklahoma are working to set up disaster recovery centers to provide aid and assistance to victims of Monday's tornado.
FEMA's Craig Fugate promises in an interview that officials won't desert Oklahoma, saying "We don't leave here when the cameras leave. We stay here and get the job done."
Fugate tells CNN that the agency has enough money to assist the people of Moore, Okla., who were caught in the path of destruction as the nearly 1.3-mile-wide twister struck Monday afternoon. He says officials will work aggressively to help people find temporary housing and says FEMA is working with other officials to get services restored.
Residents of Moore are also at work, taking stock of what's left of their homes and possessions and deciding what comes next. The tornado killed at least 24 people, destroyed countless homes and reduced one elementary school almost entirely to rubble.
Moore's Mayor Glenn Lewis tells CNN "I think that will stand" even as residents report there are still people unaccoutned for. Cassandra Jenkins tells CNN that she cannot find her grandparents. She has checked unsuccessfully with hospitals, shelters and the Red Cross. "All we know is that their home is still left standing, however they have not been seen or heard from since the storm hit," said Jenkins.
Flags in New Jersey will fly at half-staff today in honor of the tornado's victims. New Jerseyans know firsthand the impact of natural disasters. We stand in unity with the people of Oklahoma as we mourn their losses," tweeted Governor Chris Christie.
2,400 Homes Destroyed
The tornado destroyed 2,400 homes in Oklahoma City and Moore and has impacted 10,000 residents according to Jerry Lojka, spokesman for Oklahoma Emergency Management.
From the air, large stretches Moore could be seen where every home had been cut to pieces. Some homes were sucked off their concrete slabs. A pond was filled with piles of wood and an overturned trailer.
Also visible were large patches of red earth where the tornado scoured the land down to the soil. Some tree trunks were still standing, but the winds ripped away their leaves.
Political debate is starting over federal emergency relief dollars for Oklahoma after its two United States Senators, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, voted against aid for New Jersey and other states affected by Superstorm Sandy according to the Star Ledger.
Both Republicans believe the fiscally responsible thing to do is to make cuts elsewhere in the federal budget to cover the emergency funds.
Congressman Rush Holt (D), however, summed up the thoughts of most of the New Jersey Congressional delegation. "Disaster relief is a key responsibility of the federal government, and it shouldn’t be held up by longstanding partisan demands for cuts in government services."
The Associated Press contributed to this story