Oklahoma City: How you can help

Updated:

Children look at destroyed homes in the aftermath of a huge tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, Monday.

SEATTLE - People wanting to donate to the thousands affected by the deadly tornado near Oklahoma City were encouraged to contact the Red Cross, either through their website or by texting “REDCROSS” TO 90999.

The Salvation Army was also accepting $10 donations by text message, asking people to text 80888 or visit their website.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined the state Better Business Bureau in warning donors to exercise restraint before sending money.

“I know many share my concerns and want to provide assistance right away—but it is important to exercise caution and make sure your money helps those who truly need it,” he said.

Ferguson and the BBB told people to be suspicious of solicitors requesting immediate donations or donations in cash. Never give out credit card numbers over the phone be watchful of sympathetic-sounding names. A reliable charity will provide background information, authorities said.

At least 24 people were dead, including at least seven children, after the massive tornado that initially was classified as an EF-4 with winds up to 200 miles per hour. More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 50 children. Search-and-rescue efforts were to continue throughout the night.

At Plaza Towers Elementary School, the storm tore off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal.

Children from the school were among the dead, but several students were pulled alive from the rubble. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain to the triage center in the parking lot.

James Rushing, who lives across the street from the school, heard reports of the approaching twister and ran to the school, where his 5-year-old foster son, Aiden, attends classes. Rushing believed he would be safer there.

"About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart," he said.

When the tornado hit, 81-year-old Betty Snider scrambled to go inside with her son and husband. She put her husband, who recently had a stroke, in a bathroom, but there wasn't room for both of them. So she and her son huddled in a hallway.

"That is the loudest roar I've ever heard in my life," she said.

She said she didn't have time to do anything. She couldn't duck, couldn't cover her ears, couldn't find another place to hide.

Snider lived through the 1999 tornado, but said this was the closest a twister had ever come to her house, which was still standing.

"We thought that (the 1999 storm) was bad,” said her said her daughter, Phyllis Boyer, 61. “But this is unbelievable.”