Oklahoma: Nature's Cruel Blow Piles on the Agony

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TORNADO COUNTRY: Oklahoma City is in ruins again. "It looks like the Murrah Building, but instead of nine stories tall, it's spread out over a large area," Oklahoma City assistant fire chief Jon Hansen told the Associated Press after 76 tornadoes -- one as much as a mile wide -- sliced through five states, primarily Oklahoma and Kansas, on Monday night. At least 45 people are dead -- though the death count looks likely to rise as the wreckage is sifted -- hundreds are injured and 2,000 homes have been destroyed. The widespread devastation means that rebuilding will be a slow process; in Oklahoma City, large areas are still cordoned off because downed power lines are making them too dangerous.

These were as bad as tornadoes get. The National Weather Service estimated them at F-4 and F-5, the most powerful, with four-and-a-half-inch hailstones thrown in for good measure. One twister raged for more than four hours through the night. All the more deadly because they came at night, the twisters have left Oklahoma City in shock for the second time in four years. This time nature's fury, not man's, is to blame. "It certainly looks like a huge battle has taken place," Oklahoma governor Frank Keating told NBC's "Today" show. "We have whole communities that simply aren't there anymore."