A band of thunderstorms battered the Oklahoma City area Thursday, slowing cleanup operations in the suburb where a tornado killed 24 people and destroyed thousands of homes this week.
The first of the funerals, for a 9-year-old girl killed at a Moore elementary school that took a direct hit in Monday’s storm, was scheduled for Thursday morning. A family photo showed the girl, Antonia Candelaria, beaming with a big smile and wearing a white sun hat.
Early estimates indicate the tornado caused more than $2 billion of damage in Moore. Whole subdivisions in the fast-growing community of 56,000 people were destroyed. Authorities estimated that as many as 13,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 33,000 people were affected — an especially traumatic toll for a city that had already suffered three other tornados since 1998.
Two elementary schools were hit — one was leveled — by Monday’s tornado. Candelaria was one of seven children who perished at the Plaza Towers Elementary School, a one story building with barely a wall left standing. Altogether, 10 children were killed in the storm, including two infants.
The medical examiner reported that six of the children who died at Plaza Towers suffocated after being buried under a mass of bricks, steel and other materials as the building collapsed. A seventh child who died there, 8-year-old Kyle Davis, was killed instantly by an object — perhaps a large piece of stone or a beam — that fell on the back of his neck.
Thursday’s thunderstorms produced hail, heavy rain and high winds in the morning. A flash flood warning was also in effect. The National Weather Service said more severe storms were forecast for late afternoon and at night, and that more tornados were a possibility.
The weather was hampering cleanup and recovery efforts that had just begun to accelerate now that all of the missing have been accounted for. Residents were only formally allowed back into the damage zone on Wednesday afternoon, where they picked through enormous piles of debris.
Here is more on some of the victims.
JaNae Hornsby, 9
One of seven children killed inside the Plaza Towers Elementary School, JaNae loved to draw and sing. She loved being the center of attention, her father said.
JaNae’s house, just three blocks from the school, also was destroyed by the tornado. Her father wanted to go back to the property to see if he could find a few of JaNae’s things to keep.
"JaNae was the life of the party. If JaNae was there you were having a good time. She liked to sing, be a big sister, be a big cousin. She liked to draw," he said, smiling, as he remembered his little girl.
As family gathered to make funeral arrangements and comfort one another, Hornsby looked behind him into the house.
"If she was here she would just have everybody laughing and she would be in the midst of everything. She loved the spotlight," he said.
Karrina Vargyas, 4
Karrina was not quite old enough to be at school like her two older siblings. So she was at home huddled in a bathtub with her mother, younger sister and grandmother.
The tornado threw the women and children in different directions. Her parents could not find Karrina that night. It was only later that they learned that searchers had found Karrina’s body in the rubble of what had been a neighbor’s house.
Her father, Phillip Vargyas, said Karrina "had a smile that would light up the room." And whenever he fells the pain of her loss, her father said he likes to think of Karrina giving him a little hug.
"She was something else," Phillip Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "She wanted to figure skate. That was her dream in life."Next Page >
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