Nightly News   |  May 20, 2013

In Moore, a chaotic scene with ‘traffic as far as the eye can see’

The giant tornado that hit Oklahoma Monday was believed to be one-mile wide at its base, destroying large brick buildings and knocking over power poles. Afterward, there were miles of traffic stretching out of Moore, Okla. The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes reports on the damage that he called “reminiscent of Joplin.”

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>>> well, good evening. we happen to be in our nbc los angeles bureau tonight, but it appears we are covering an historic tornado in oklahoma tonight. one storm during a very violent day. this one has hit moore , oklahoma , just south of oklahoma city . from the air it is hard to know at times and the aftermath just what it is we are looking at. there are estimates that this tornado, preliminarily believed to be an f-4 or f-5, the strongest intensity winds on earth, was over one mile wide at its base just a few hours ago. it was in moore , oklahoma , by the way, back in 1999 when the highest ever tornado winds were recorded on earth. 302 miles an hour. early pictures from moore showed school children staggering into the arms of teachers and parents, fires burning -- open fires from gas leaks, miles of devastation. it's been hard to listen to at times. local reporters have been breaking up on the air, overcome with emotion while covering their own community, especially following an initial report that upwards of 75 children and faculty might have been inside a single elementary school classroom inside a collapsed structure. mike bets, meteorologist with the weather channel has been chasing these storms across the american midwest . he's on the outskirts of moore , oklahoma , right now. mike, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening to uh you, brian. it is a chaotic scene, as you might imaginimagine. traffic is very heavy. we are less than two miles outside of moore . i will show you here folks trying to get into moore , maybe trying to check on their homes and the damage there. it is traffic as far as the eye can see. they have blocked off the roadway because they have a gas rupture in there. first responders not allowing anyone in. in the distance you can see power poles tilted over. the tornado came left to right in moore . you can see smoke in the distance. we believe fires have been sparked because of the tornado. choppers have been hovering in the air. we have seen first responders, fire trucks , police officers flying by down the road. it is literally miles and miles of traffic. we are getting out of our vehicle and walking to get there. this goes on for a solid five or six miles behind us. you can't get there. the damage is too heavy. you and i are both there in joplin, missouri. it is reminiscent of that -- this tornado. at times, maybe as much as a mile or wider. we know we have seen scenes from the air. truly devastating. large brick buildings that have been destroyed. we are hear eing now also buildings like target, home depot with people inside flattened. we have no idea how many people inside. what that may look like. i can tell you at this point it's nearly impossible to get into moore at this point. again, an unfolding situation. we have very little information on now. we are trying to get to the scene and bring you what we can this evening, brian. difficult logistically to get in right now.

>> mike bettes with our first report from outside moore . mike, thanks.