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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Obama Touring Oklahoma Tornado Response

 
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Posted by Nicholas Stix

 

Obama touring Oklahoma tornado response

Carol Kawaykla searches for items in her destroyed home on May 23 in Moore, Okla. Charlie Riedel, AP

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Family members take a lunch break at Fred Martin's home. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Lee Haskins land his daughter, Elizabeth, leave their home with some personal items. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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David Lee Estep sits on the rubble of a home he shared with his parents. Charlie Riedel, AP

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Dawn Ice helps a friend search for items in his destroyed home. Charlie Riedel, AP

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Nathaniel Hernandez, left, and friend John Ashcraft inspect a boat belonging to Hernandez's family. Tom Pennington, Getty Images

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Tyler Young helps James Lee remove a stove. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Carol Kawaykla, left, gets a hug from her daughter, Jacque Knight, as they stand in the rubble of Kawaykla's home. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Kellie Evey dries photographs recovered from her destroyed home. Tom Pennington, Getty Images

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Seven crosses sit along the curb in front of what was once the home of Scott and Julie Lewis. The crosses were placed in memory of the seven children from Plaza Towers Elementary School who were killed when the tornado struck the school. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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An American flag flies over a destroyed neighborhood. Tom Pennington Getty Images

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Wrecked cars and debris litter the ground at Plaza Elementary Schoo. Seven children were killed May 20 when a huge tornado destroyed the school as it roared through the Oklahoma City suburb. Brennan Linsley, AP

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A sheriff's deputy stands in the wreckage of the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Playground equipment was destroyed by a tornado at Plaza Towers Elementary School. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Debris and wreckage surround destroyed homes. Joshua Lott, AP

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Arlisha Hall holds her daughter, Akai Hall, as she and her husband, Wyatt, walk back to their home on May 22. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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Members of the Strasburg (Va.) Fire Department assist a resident. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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A worker clears debris from Plaza Towers Elementary School. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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A woman searches for belongings. Charlie Riedel, AP

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John Wilson surveys the neighborhood. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Dennis Guarnera tries to dig out his brother's police car. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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Christine Jones, left, is comforted by her daughter, Ashley, as they stand in front of her destroyed home. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Susan Kates salvages items from a friend's home. Charlie Riedel, AP

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A family salvages belongings. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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Eric Lowery checks his mother's wrecked vehicle. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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A crumpled road sign is covered with debris. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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Rick Brown, left, gets help from his son, Chad, as he searches for items in the wreckage of his home. Brennan Linsley, AP

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A tornado on May 20 destroyed or damaged homes in a residential neighborhood in Moore. Brennan Linsley, AP

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Piles of debris litter a playground in Moore, Okla., where 24 people died in the May 20 tornado. Brennan Linsley, AP

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A park near a neighborhood is filled with wreckage from destroyed homes. Brennan Linsley, AP

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Police conduct a patrol of partially destroyed homes. Brennan Linsley, AP

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Houses were reduced to rubble in Moore, Okla. Twenty-four people were killed when the EF5 tornado roared through the town May 20, demolishing schools, businesses and homes. Benjamin Krain, Getty Images

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Roger Graham sits in front of his destroyed home in Moore. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Downed utility poles block the road on Sante Fe Avenue at S.W. 19th Street. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Victor Gonzalez stays dry under a sheet of plastic as he helps a friend search for personal items in a destroyed home on May 21. Charlie Riedel, AP

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A survivor's message is scrawled on the side of a home on Heather Lane. Brad Loper, AP

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Ofelia Olivera, left, and Oscar Ruiz help remove items from a friend's home. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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A man bags personal belongings. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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A shop owner removes items from his wrecked store at a shopping complex in Moore. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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Macie Thompson views the tornado damage to Briarwood Elementary School. Scott Olson, Getty Images

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Johnnie Shatswell reflects on what he did just before the tornado hit his home in the Westmoor subdivision. Michael Mulvey for USA TODAY

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A rescue worker walks through a damaged area near 19th Street and Santa Fe in Moore, Okla. Valerie Mosley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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People help clean up and search for personal items in the Westmoor subdivision of Moore, Okla. Michael Mulvey for USA TODAY

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Stephen Peterson and his dog, Chewbacca, collect necessary items such as dog food and gloves in the Westmoor subdivision of Moore, Okla. Peterson rode out the storm in his cellar with his wife and daughter. Michael Mulvey for USA TODAY

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A man who did not want to give his name removes debris from where his grandfather's home once stood in the Westmoor subdivision of Moore, Okla. Michael Mulvey for USA TODAY

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A section of the old trestle bridge along the H.E. Bailey Turnpike over the Canadian River near Newcastle, Okla., was ripped off its mounts during the tornado and is resting against the freeway. Michael Mulvey for USA TODAY

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A man searches through a destroyed liquor store in Moore, Okla. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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A man salvages stuff from his grandmother's tornado-devastated home in Moore, Okla. Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

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Gary Kirk, from left, Billy McElrath and Bill Fuller look for items in the rubble of McElrath's house in Moore, Okla. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Austin Brock holds a cat named Tutti after the animal was rescued from the rubble of Brock's home. Brennan Linsley, AP

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An entire neighborhood was destroyed by a tornado May 20 in Moore, Okla. Tony Gutierrez, AP

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A wrecked police car rests near destroyed homes. Charlie Riedel, AP

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The EF5 tornado flattened homes. Tony Gutierrez, AP

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The Moore Medical Center was heavily damaged. Tony Gutierrez, AP

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Rescue workers search through debris at the Towers Plaza Elementary School. Tony Gutierrez, AP

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Roger Craft, left, grabs a rifle from his nephew, Dalton Sprading, as he helps salvage belongings from his home after a tornado destroyed the neighborhood. Charlie Riedel, AP

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Workers search through the debris at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore. Valerie Mosley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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Kendra Riel, left, Alicia Riel and Brock Hubble search for personal items. Valerie Mosley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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Zac and Denisha Woodcock look through the wreckage of their home. Charlie Riedel, AP

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Only a pile of debris remains after a massive tornado destroyed a neighborhood in Moore. Brennan Linsley, AP

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A resident checks a destroyed home. Brennan Linsley, AP

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Piles of debris lie near the northeastern corner of Plaza Towers Elementary School. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Personal belongings and debris is scattered across a destroyed neighborhood. Brennan Linsley, AP

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A twisted traffic sign lies in a destroyed neighborhood. Brennan Linsley, AP

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A security official guards an area near a destroyed residential neighborhood. Brennan Linsley, AP

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An American flag flutters above a pile of rubble at sunrise. Brennan Linsley, AP

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Cars destroyed by a massive tornado are scattered across the parking lot outside the Moore Medical Center. Valerie Mosley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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Smashed cars rest outside the heavily damaged Moore Medical Center. Valerie Mosley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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Janna Wardlaw walks the streets of Moore looking for help after the devastating tornado. Valerie Mosley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader

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Searchers rest outside Briarwood Elementary School. David McDaniel, The Oklahoman, via AP

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A parent rushes to embrace her child as a teacher escorts her away from Briarwood Elementary School. Paul Hellstern, AP

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Children wait for their parents to arrive at Briarwood Elementary School. Paul Hellstern, AP

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Teachers carry injured children away from Briarwood Elementary School. Paul Hellstern, AP

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Workers dig through the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School. Sue Ogrocki, AP

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Plaza Towers Elementary School was hit by a massive tornado in Moore. Steve Gooch, AP

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A child is removed from the wreckage of the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Sue Ogrocki, AP

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Police officers search for survivors at Plaza Towers Elementary. Sue Ogrocki, AP

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A woman carries an injured child to a triage center near the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. Sue Ogrocki, AP

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A fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition in Moore. Sue Ogrocki, AP

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Workers look for victims under debris. Paul Hellstern, AP

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People cover a tornado victim discovered in a field across the street from the Madison Place Addition building in Moore. Jim Beckel, AP

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A residential area in Moore, Okla., was destroyed by a massive tornado. Steve Gooch, AP

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Clark Gardner, left, and another man place an American flag on debris in a neighborhood near Telephone Road. Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman, via AP

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This aerial photo shows the remains of homes hit by a massive tornado in Moore, Okla., Monday May 20, 2013. A tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch) ORG XMIT: OKOKL115 Steve Gooch AP

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Vehicles were flipped over by the tornado at Moore Medical Center. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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The hood of car is wedged in the front window of the Moore Medical Center. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Antonio Flores searches for his car at the Moore Medical Center parking lot. Alonzo Adams, AP

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Destroyed vehicles sit at a parking lot at the Moore Medical Center. Alonzo Adams, AP

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Rescue crews remove a body from a 7-11 store at the corner of Telephone Road and SW 4th Street. Alonzo Adams, AP

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A massive tornado flattened a neighborhood in Moore. Steve Gooch, AP

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A boulder crushed a truck. Alonzo Adams, AP

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Nathan Ulepich searches through debris near his destroyed home. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Glenn Rusk hugs his neighbor Sherie Loman outside her home north of Briarwood Elementary School. David McDaniel, The Oklahoman, via AP

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The remains of homes after a massive tornado hit Moore. Steve Gooch, AP

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A vehicle lies upside down in the road after a powerful tornado ripped through Moore, Okla. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Yellow caution tape marks off the area surrounding the heavily damaged Moore Medical Center. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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Piles of debris cover the ground after a tornado ripped through Moore, Okla. Brett Deering, Getty Images

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LaTisha Garcia carries her 8-year-old daughter, Jazmin Rodriguez near Plaza Towers Elementary School after a massive tornado carved its way through Moore, Okla. Sue Ogrocki, AP

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A monstrous tornado passes across south Oklahoma City. Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman via AP

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Two men attempt to pry open a car door to check for victims in a business parking lot after a tornado in Oklahoma City. Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman, via AP

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2:02 p.m. EDT May 26, 2013

"They have suffered mightily this week," Obama said Wednesday of the people of storm-ravaged Oklahoma.

President Obama boards Air Force One on Sunday at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Moore, Okla.(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)

Story Highlights

  • EF5 tornadoes are rare; Moore, Okla., has been struck twice
  • Two dozen people died in last week's twister
  • Obama is touring storm damage and visiting with families

MOORE, Okla. (AP) — President Obama flew to tornado-stricken Oklahoma Sunday to offer both moral and monetary support to a community facing an enormous reconstruction challenge while still reeling from the loss of lives, property and neighborhoods.

The White House said Obama wanted a firsthand look at recovery from the monstrous EF-5 tornado that barreled through last Monday afternoon. The president was visiting with affected families and thanking first responders in the devastated town of Moore, about 10 miles from Oklahoma City.

Obama's motorcade passed past grassy fields strewn with scattered debris. He saw devastation so awesome that it appeared as if garbage had literally rained from the sky. The president's first stop was the demolished site of the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven students were killed when the tornado turned the one-story building into a heap of bricks, broken concrete and twisted metal.

Obama flew from Washington into Tinker Air Force Base and shook hands with personnel whose homes off base were lost or damaged. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the first to greet the president as he got off the plane, said Sunday that her message to Obama is that she appreciates the visit, but the state also needs quick action from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help the ravaged town of 41,000 people.

Tina Taylor salvages items at her brother-in-law's tornado-ravaged home Saturday in Moore, Okla.(Photo: Charlie Riedel, AP)

The Republican governor said so far, the agency has done a great job of speeding relief and cash assistance to affected families, but she's concerned about the long run.

"There's going to come a time when there's going to be a tremendous amount of need once we begin the debris clearing, which we already have, but really get it cleared off to where we need to start rebuilding these homes, rebuilding these businesses," she said on CBS' Face the Nation. ''And we know at different times in the past, money hasn't come always as quickly as it should."

Obama offered prayers for residents from the White House in recent days and has promised to support the rebuilding for as long as it takes. "They have suffered mightily this week," Obama said Wednesday. "And while the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters accompanying the presidential party on Air Force One, said Obama wanted to make the trip to offer condolences and reiterate his and the nation's commitment to rebuild.

"This is the greatest nation on Earth, and we're going to dedicate this nation's time, attention, resources and expertise to help our people in their time of urgent crisis," the spokesman said.

Earnest touted the federal contributions so far, including Obama's signing of a disaster declaration within hours of the storm to speed aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Earnest said that 450 FEMA personnel were working on the ground in Oklahoma and have delivered 43,000 meals, 150,000 liters of water and thousands of cots, blankets and tarps. He said 4,200 people have applied for disaster assistance, and $3.4 million in payments have been approved.

Fallin said the money is particularly vital for the victims. "A lot of people lose their checkbooks, they lose their credit cards, they lose their driver's license, their birth certificates, their insurance papers, they lose everything, and they have no cash. And some of the banks were even hit, the ATM machines, so people need cash to get immediate needs," she said on CBS.

Mourners leave a funeral service for Antonia Calendaria on May 23 in Oklahoma City. Calendaria, 9, a student at Towers Plaza Elementary School, was killed May 20 when a tornado struck her school. Tony Gutierrez, AP

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People gather under a garage to avoid rain after attending a memorial service for Antonia Candelaria at the Vondel Smith Mortuary South Colonial Chapel. Joshua Lott, AFP/Getty Images

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A man yells at the media and asks them to leave at the end of a memorial service for Antonia Candelaria. Joshua Lott, AFP/Getty Images

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Antonia Candelaria, 9, was born in Oklahoma. She was the sister of Trinity Candelaria and Lillian Rosson and daughter of Brandie Candelaria and Jimmy Rosson. Brandi Candelaria via AP

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Christopher Legg, 9, was a third-grader at Plaza Towers Elementary. Cousin Brian Trumbly says Christopher was a "very strong-willed and outgoing kid" who loved football. Family photo

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JaNae Hornsby. JaNae was killed when a tornado struck Plaza Towers Elementary School on May 20. She is described by her father, Joshua, as a "special baby" who made friends with everyone she met. Hornsby family via AP

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Sydney Angle, 9, second from left, was killed as a result of the tornado that hit Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. A family photo showing from left, Daniel Angle, Sydney Angle, Nicole Angle, Jory Pratt and Casey Angle. Angle family photo via AFP/Getty Images

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Kyle Davis, 8, was a third-grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School. He loved playing soccer, going to Monster Jam Truck events, riding four-wheelers and playing with his sister and cousins. Family photo via AP

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Earnest also said that forecasters from the National Weather Service had worked ahead of the storm to prepare communities that it threatened. He said they issued a warning 36 minutes before the tornado entered Moore, earlier than the 12-minute average warning. Twenty-four people perished in the tornado, including 10 children.

"These advancements, made by government scientists in the field of weather forecasting at these agencies are dramatic and they're saving lives," Earnest said. He said Sunday wasn't a day for a partisan political debate, adding that "it is evident to any impartial observer here what an important role the federal government can play in providing assistance to our people at their time of urgent need."

Among the tornado victims were 10 children, including two sisters pulled by the strong winds out of their mother's grasp, an infant who died along with his mother trying to ride out the storm in a convenience store and seven students at Plaza Towers. Many students were pulled from the rubble after the school was destroyed.

Fallin noted that some 100 other schools in Oklahoma have safe rooms for children to seek shelter in tornados.

"Schools that have been lost in the past, many of them have rebuilt rooms of some sort as a safe room in their school, and we're certainly going to encourage that," she said.

"Any death is very unfortunate, but it's truly incredible that we had only 24 deaths at this site, because if you look at all the debris field and how wide it is, I don't know how anybody survived this tornado," she said on CBS.

The White House said that FEMA has already provided $57 million in rebates and incentives to help build about 12,000 storm shelters in Oklahoma. "These storm shelters can be the difference between life and death," Earnest said.

Satellites show the swell of storm systems crossing into Oklahoma on May 20th that triggered a devastating tornado.

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