Scientists concluded the storm was a rare and extraordinarily powerful type of twister known as an EF5, which is capable of lifting reinforced buildings off the ground, hurling cars like missiles and stripping trees completely free of bark.
Meanwhile, 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.
The fire chief said he was confident there are no more bodies or survivors in the rubble.
“I’m 98 percent sure we’re good,” Gary Bird said Tuesday at a news conference with the governor, who had just completed an aerial tour of the disaster zone.
Authorities were so focused on the search effort that they had yet to establish the full scope of damage along the storm’s long, ruinous path.
The death toll was revised downward from 51 after the state medical examiner said some victims may have been counted twice in the confusion.
By Tuesday afternoon, every damaged home had been searched at least once, Bird said. His goal was to conduct three searches of each building just to be certain there were no more bodies or survivors.
The fire chief was hopeful that could be completed before nightfall but efforts were being hampered by heavy rain. Crews also continued a brick-by-brick search of the rubble of a school that was blown apart with many children inside.
No additional survivors or bodies have been found since Monday night, Bird said.
Survivors emerged with harrowing accounts of the storm’s wrath, which many endured as they shielded loved ones.
Chelsie McCumber grabbed her 2-year-old son, Ethan, wrapped him in jackets and covered him with a mattress before they squeezed into a coat closet of their house. McCumber sang to her child when he complained it was getting hot inside the small space.
“I told him we’re going to play tent in the closet,” she said, beginning to cry.
“I just felt air so I knew the roof was gone,” she said Tuesday, standing under the sky where her roof should have been. The home was littered with wet gray insulation and all of their belongings.