Officials and residents in the tornado-ravaged Plains began to survey the damage Wednesday where a series of twisters left thousands of homes flattened.
According to the National Weather Service, the multiple tornadoes developed out of a line of major storms. Up to 45 tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma, where 38 people died on Monday.
In addition, five people died in Kansas from 14 tornadoes. President Clinton has authorized federal disaster aid for both states.
One elderly woman was also killed in Texas late Tuesday when more tornadoes touched down there.
Oklahoma was the hardest hit state where one tornado, classified at F5, left a 19-mile path through the Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday. Initial estimates indicate the twister may be the largest recorded since 1982.
One community particularly hard hit was Bridge Creek, OK, where 11 people died and four people are still reported missing.
Some residents of the most ravaged areas are now being allowed into their neighborhoods for a few hours today, although they must be able to prove they live there though to prevent looting.
“When you look at this, you would think at least a thousand people were killed. The devastation is that terrible,” James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], told CNN.
The Insurance Information Institute reported that insured property damage for Oklahoma and Kansas could exceed $500 million. Overall damage for the four states could aproach one billion dollars. Under the declaration of disaster made on Tuesday by President Clinton, counties are eligible for assistance and loans from the federal government, including loans from the Small Business Administration.