Gov. Fallin: Tornado damage ‘worst I’ve ever seen’

“The tornado itself was very, very wide. It just wiped out miles of areas and homes and businesses. It’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Fallin on CBS’s “This Morning.”

Fallin said the priority for emergency workers was to find any survivors in the devastation.

"Of course our hearts were broken yesterday, and the first thing I told my cabinet secretaries and all the emergency personnel is find the people. Do everything we can to get as many rescue squads out there. Let's bring in search and rescue dogs. Whatever we need. We've got to find the people immediately, and that's been our biggest goal through the last hours since the storm has struck," she said on Fox News.

"Well right now, we're certainly in the rescue and recovery stages. We want to make sure we've looked under every crevice possible, under the debris to make sure that we've recovered people," Fallin added.

"Hopefully we'll be able to find some more people. We're not real sure who all may be missing because the debris field was so wide — it was almost two miles wide, 20 miles long, and it's just been a massive area of destruction.”

The tornado, believed to be nearly a mile wide, tore through the Oklahoma City suburbs of Newcastle and Moore Monday afternoon flattening homes and buildings, including two elementary schools. Initial reports said 51 people had died, including 20 children, but authorities said they feared the death toll could rise.

President Obama declared a major disaster in the state and will address the nation at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning about the relief efforts.

Fallin said she had spoken to the president on Monday and was encouraged by his offer of federal help.

“He offered any type of assistance he could give. We appreciate the president, the administration, FEMA, approving our emergency declaration so quickly last night,” she said.

Fallin cautioned that the recovery would be a massive, prolonged effort. 

“This is going to be a huge recovery effort. It’s going to be a long time to be able to get the power, the lights, the debris cleared up, roads open,” she said.

The White House said that before delivering his statement Tuesday, Obama will receive an update on the emergency response to the crisis from Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, chief of staff Denis McDonough, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and other senior staff members.