(NBC NEWS) When the sirens began blaring and teachers at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., heard that a monstrous tornado was roaring toward their 57-year-old school and its youngest students, there was nowhere to hide.
They crouched in hallways and bathrooms, waiting, hoping and praying. Then "the school started coming apart," one neighbor who sought shelter at the school told the Associated Press. A teacher told NBC station KFOR that she draped herself on top of six children in a bathroom to shelter them.
The massive twister scored a direct hit at 3 p.m. (4 p.m. ET), tearing off the roof of the mostly one-story public school, a cinder-block building that had no chance of withstanding shrieking winds that may have topped 200 mph -- the powerful outer edge of what the National Weather Service said was at least an EF4 tornado, the second-most-powerful rating.
Advertisement - story continues below