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Briarwood, Plaza Towers Elementary Schools Hit By Tornado In Moore, Oklahoma, Rescue Efforts Underway

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Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday, according to local media reports.

Plaza Towers Elementary School was flattened by the storm and Briarwood Elementary School was also reportedly severely hit. It is unclear at this time how many people were at the schools when the damage occurred, but search and rescue efforts are underway.

"Apparently some kids were being sheltered there [at Plaza Towers]," local TV station KFOR reported during its live coverage of the tornado. The local news outlet later confirmed that children were being pulled from debris at the Plaza Towers site.

According to News 9, an Oklahoma City Police Department representative has stated that there are currently no reports of injuries at the Briarwood Elementary scene. The school did, however, suffer "extensive damage."

UPDATE #3: KFOR is reporting that there were no fatalities at Briarwood Elementary and all students are accounted for.

UPDATE #2: An representative for Oklahoma Emergency Services confirmed in a press conference Monday night that there were casualties at the Plaza Towers Elementary School.

UPDATE: The AP is reporting that several children have been pulled out of the rubble alive at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

More from earlier:

Plaza Towers is located on the west side of Moore, just south of Oklahoma City. Briarwood Elementary is not far away, also on the same side of the town.

A local affiliate in Denver shared a photo of one of the impacted schools on Twitter:

This is a developing story. Scroll down for updates.

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While the Moore Medical Center crumbled around her on Monday afternoon, Shay-la Taylor was in labor with her second baby boy.

The mom-to-be knew about the severe weather watch as she checked into the hospital to be induced at 9 a.m. that morning, but says she wasn’t really nervous.

“We’re used to tornadoes and sirens,” the 25-year-old mom told HuffPost in a phone interview. “If you freaked out every time you heard a siren, you’d have an anxiety attack every May in Oklahoma.”

Click here to read the rest of her tale.

--Farah L. Miller

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Sprinkles Cupcakes in Los Angeles plans to donate all of the proceeds from their (ever-popular) Red Velvet cupcake sold on May 22 to support Oklahomans affected by Monday's tornado.

"As a native Oklahoman with my parents and brother still living in Oklahoma City, I am especially heartbroken by this devastating tragedy," Charles Nelson, co-founder of Sprinkles, stated on Facebook.

For more, click here.

--Sasha Bronner

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moore tornado kevin durant

Basketball player Kevin Durant viewed tornado-damaged homes in Moore, Okla., on Wednesday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star also donated million to the American Red Cross for relief efforts. The Thunder later matched the million donation. (Sue Ogrocki / AP)

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The post office branch in Moore, Okla., was one of the thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed by Monday's twister. To help residents impacted by the disaster, the US Postal Service is setting up mail service alternatives in the area, News9.com reported.

Some of the options being offered include held mail, portable post offices and delivery service through an alternative office nearby. Letter carriers will also attempt to deliver mail wherever possible.

Click here for more.

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HuffPost's Lynne Peeples reports:

Chris Whitley had already survived three tornadoes and had worked at the scene of dozens more before arriving in Joplin, Mo.

"It was unlike anything I'd ever seen," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman recalled of the devastation left by the deadly twister that struck the town two years ago Wednesday.

"So far," he added, "pictures from Moore are very eerily familiar."

As they did in the wake of the Joplin tornado, Whitley and other experts are warning of dangers that may not be obvious in photographs of the wreckage in Moore, Okla., where a mile-wide tornado tore through the town and took the lives of at least 24 people on Monday.

In addition to rusty nails, shattered glass, falling debris and loose wires, hazards such as cancer-causing asbestos and neurotoxic lead can be stirred up by the violent winds and by recovery efforts themselves. Such risks may raise the toll of death and injury over the days, even decades, ahead.

Read the rest here.

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HuffPost's Saki Knafo reports:

“I’m being totally honest with you,” Darius, 15, said. “I don’t even know where we are.”

The wreckage left by the mile-wide tornado that swept across central Oklahoma, killing at least 24 people, is so comprehensive and so jumbled that it challenges the very concept of rebuilding. So little is left that it’s hard to know where to start. Thousands of people are now homeless, their houses battered beyond recognition and their futures far from clear.

For Darius, a sense of dislocation is nothing new. Until he was 8, he lived in an apartment in New Orleans. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and he and his mom evacuated to Houston, before resettling here, in the suburbs of Oklahoma City.

His mother’s constant fights with his stepdad prompted him to seek refuge. In February, he moved into a spare room in Brandon’s home a few blocks away, effectively becoming part of the Dick family. For the first time in his life, he had a place he called home.

Now, it's gone.

Read the rest here.

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HuffPost's Ben Hallman reports from Moore:

Judy Peterson has big plans for restoring her home, which was damaged in the brutal tornado that devastated this community on Monday. A man at her church has volunteered to remove the pear tree that fell on her driveway and her son-in-law, a contractor, has promised to help repair her roof and windows.

But on Wednesday afternoon, she was sitting on the pavement with her daughter in the bright sunshine at an intersection leading into her neighborhood. She had been there for a while. As with some 80 or so other residents milling around here, police had prevented Peterson from returning to her home to gather valuables and begin to clean up.

“It’s frustrating to be here because there is so much else we could be doing,” Peterson said. “I’m trying to be open-minded about the whole thing.”

Read more here.

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News9 reports:

Shayla Taylor was in the middle of labor on the second floor of Moore medical when the tornado hit, but baby wasn't on her brain.

Her family, including her husband were sent downstairs to the cafeteria, but Shayla was too far along to be moved. Moments later: a direct hit.

Read more here.

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HuffPost's Michael McAuliff reports:

Oklahoma's senators can thank sequestration, and perhaps more importantly, funding for Superstorm Sandy cleanup that they opposed, for sparing them from a difficult vote on disaster aid for tornado-ravaged Oklahomans.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) argued that an aid bill for the Sooner State would be totally different than the Sandy bill. And Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) argued in an interview Wednesday that Oklahomans will get whatever they need from the federal government without new help because the the Federal Emergency Management Agency has ".8 billion sitting on the side."

"We're not going to come close to that with this," Coburn said on CBS. "Oklahomans like to care for their own, and we'll take the help that's appropriate."

Read more here.

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The Associated Press says the state medical examiner's office has released a complete list of the names and ages of the 24 people killed in the tornado. Click here for the full list.

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KFOR reports:

William H. Macy, his wife, Felicity Huffman, and other members of the Rudderless movie cast and crew reached out to help Oklahomans after the recent tornadoes.

The stars were here shooting a pivotal scene on location at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Read more here.

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Suzanne Haley, a teacher's aide at Briarwood Elementary School, was impaled in her leg while protecting students during the Moore, Okla. tornado. The school was in the direct path of the twister and completely destroyed, but there were no fatalities.

Click here to read more. The post does include graphic photos.

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Megan Futrell, a 29-year-old mother of two, died in Monday's tornado with her 4-month-old child, Case, according to a statement emailed to The Huffington Post by the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Futrell and her baby were killed when the roof collapsed on a 7-Eleven, where the two were sheltered in a walk-in cooler, the Oklahoman reports. Just minutes before, Futrell had grabbed Case from a babysitter and run inside the store to wait out the tornado. She realized she couldn't outrun the storm in her car, the paper notes.

Click here to read more.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has asked for "swift and immediate" aid following the Oklahoma tornado and asked lawmakers to set aside partisanship and any "political retribution."

Read more here.

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As families across Oklahoma start to pick up the pieces in the wake of Monday's devastating tornado, one family is reeling after the loss of two of their children to the storm..

Speaking with the Daily Mail, the childrens' father, Phillip Vargyas, still sounded dazed.

"We just don’t know what to do anymore," he said, adding, "At this point we have a lot of things to do, little things to do for the girls. ... We are trying to move in the right direction but it’s hard to know where to go at all, what to do."

karrina sydnee vargyas

Photo courtesy of: KCEN-TV.

Read more here.

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Rep. Tom Cole on bipartisan tornado response: "I have gotten more texts from both sides of the aisle on this than over my entire career combined."

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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the federal government will financially support clean up efforts following the Moore tornado.

"The federal government will assume 85 percent of the cost for the first 30 days, 80 percent for the next 60 days. That will allow the state and communities to draw funds very quickly."

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