TODAY   |  May 21, 2013

Okla. tornado draws comparisons to 1999 storm

Before yesterday’s tornado touched down, when Moore, Okla., residents referred to “the big one” they were talking about the F5 tornado that tore through the area back in 1999. TODAY’s Al Roker talks about the devastation left behind by that storm.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> lot over the last day, al, about the storm of 1999 .

>> everywhere i went through the neighborhood i interviewed people and to a person, they all referenced the may 3rd storm of 1999 . it's the tornado against which all others are judged. may, 1999 , in moore, oklahoma.

>> a very large maxitornado on the ground.

>> reporter: right at rush hour an ef5 tornado, the strongest winds ever recorded on earth.

>> about three miles.

>> reporter: a funnel cloud trained on the plains.

>> cars were tossed around, houses reduced to rubble, at least 60,000 people have been left without power.

>> reporter: families with babies huddling under an overpass.

>> wanted to keep them safe.

>> that's the only part of the house left standing.

>> reporter: this woman sheltered her husband.

>> the tornado was pulling him one way and i was pulling him in the closet the other way.

>> reporter: it tossed pickup trucks like toys, ripped roofs off buildings, fractured lives. the irony of an open house and an open air kitchen.

>> the devastation was unimaginable an ef5 tornado destroyed the moore area leaving this disaster zone.

>> reporter: 44 died, 8,000 homes destroyed, more than $1 billion worth of damage. but determination to save what they had and rebuild all of what they lost. well, i got to tell you, this area, they're so used to these kind of storms, i was in at whole foods the other night when we first got here and they actually sell what they call tornado bins so that people already, these plastic bins that people keep supplies in, and when we were in shawnee yesterday, there were folks showing up with those bins to help people collect the belongings as they were going through all of the debris.