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Oklahoma tornado victims allowed to return to their damaged homes

May 23, 2013 at 2:14 PM   |   Comments

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MOORE, Okla., May 23 (UPI) -- Residents of tornado-devastated Moore, Okla., have been allowed to return to their neighborhoods in what officials said were the first steps toward rebuilding.

With the search for bodies and survivors completed, people lined up at dozens of checkpoints to await the signal they could begin restoring and cleaning up what was left of their homes, the Tulsa World reported Thursday.

Dump trucks had begun at dawn to tote off tons of debris and crews labored to clear roads and restore utilities.

Once residents were allowed back in the neighborhoods, a woman rushed to her kitchen and found $5,500 in cash she had hidden in a bag of hash browns in her freezer, the World reported. Other families searched for mortgage and insurance papers so they could apply for federal emergency assistance.

More than 33,000 people have been displaced.

Rebuilding efforts were cut short Thursday as rain pounded Moore, raising warnings about flash floods and severe thunderstorms, CNN reported.

The 24 people who died in Moore and two killed by storms in Shawnee are to be remembered Sunday at a public memorial and prayer service at the First Baptist Church of Moore, which Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will attend. That same day, U.S. President Barack Obama is to tour the area, the White House announced.

A Tulsa couple on Wednesday presented the American Red Cross a check for more than $111,000, representing the sales of "Love for Oklahoma" necklaces they had designed in the hours following the tornado, The Oklahoman reported Thursday.

The jewelry designers sold 2,500 of the $48 silver necklaces with a bronze pendant in the shape of Oklahoma within 24 hours of posting them online.

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