Alarms had sounded as the black funnel bore down on the suburb of Moore in the middle of the afternoon, but no one anticipated the massive destruction that left dozens of people dead.
As devastating as the tornado was, the quick thinking of some prevented the death toll from going higher.
When the tornado sirens went off around 2.15, the staff of the AgapeLand Learning Centre, a day care facility, hustled some 15 children into two bathrooms, draping them with a protective covering and singing songs with them to keep them calm.
As the wind ripped the roof off one of the bathrooms, and debris rained down on the children, they remained calm, singing ‘You Are My Sunshine’, the assistant director, Cathy Wilson, said. Though the day care centre was almost entirely destroyed, the children were unharmed.
“Not a child had a scratch,” Wilson said.
Elsewhere a woman with red scrapes on her face identified only as Elizabeth described to local television station KFOR-TV how she sped down a highway to try to get home to save her dog Ginger.
Once there, she jumped into a bathtub with the dog and an armful of pillows as the tornado shattered her windows. The twister lifted everything up and the next thing she knew, she had come to in the ruins of her home.
“I cannot believe we actually survived this thing,” she said as she held the leash of her dog, which was apparently unharmed.
Even seasoned weather forecasters were shocked at the two-mile wide swathe of vicious winds, which packed more force than a maximum-strength category five hurricane.
The tornado destroyed at least two schools, including the Plaza Towers elementary school.
A sixth-grader identified only as Brady told CNN how he and other children were led into the bathrooms by teachers as the storm bore down only to be hastily evacuated because of reports of a gas leak.
Steve Wilkerson lost his home, but said he was grateful that his family had survived. “I’ll get it together again.”.