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 told 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. It measured 1.3 miles wide at some points.
She said the monetary damage caused by the May 20 tornado could be greater than that of the 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., which left a smaller, three-mile trail of destruction.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has established a disaster relief fund to help with the long-term medical, emotional and educational needs of victims of tornados that have ravaged central Oklahoma in recent days.
Fallin said she established the OK Disaster Relief Fund in conjunction with the United Way of Central Oklahoma. The fund is designed to help victims of a tornado that struck Moore on, killing at least 24 people, and another that struck Shawnee on May 19 and left two people dead.
The governor says victims face long-term challenges that the new disaster relief fund will help meet.
Helmeted rescue workers raced to complete the search for survivors and the dead in the Oklahoma City suburb where a mammoth tornado destroyed countless homes, cleared lots down to bare red earth and claimed 24 lives, including those of nine children.
Scientists concluded the storm was a rare and extraordinarily powerful type of twister known as an EF5, ranking it at the top of the scale used to measure tornado strength. Those twisters are capable of lifting reinforced buildings off the ground, hurling cars like missiles and stripping trees completely free of bark.
Residents of Moore began returning to their homes a day after the tornado smashed some neighborhoods into jagged wood scraps and gnarled pieces of metal. In place of their houses, many families found only empty lots.
Monday’s tornado loosely followed the path of a twister that brought 300 mph (482 kph) winds in May 1999. It was the fourth tornado since 1998 to hit Moore, a middle-class community that has been one of the fastest-growing suburbs of Oklahoma City.