A search-and-rescue effort to find survivors of a monster tornado that pulverized a vast swath of the suburbs of Oklahoma City shifted Tuesday to one of recovery, officials said.
No new survivors or bodies have been found since the early hours after the tornado carved a trail 17 miles long on Monday afternoon.
"We feel like we have basically gone from rescue and searching to recovery," Glenn Lewis, the mayor of hard-hit Moore, told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Lewis said he didn't expect the death toll to climb any higher. At least 24 people, including nine children, were killed, according to the state medical examiner's office.
"I think that will stand," Lewis said.
Earlier reports of at least 51 deaths were erroneous, said Amy Elliot, chief administrative officer for the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In the chaotic aftermath of the tornado, Elliot said it appeared some of the dead were counted twice.
'One of the strongest storms'
Damage assessments conducted Tuesday showed the tornado packed winds, at times, between 200 and 210 miles per hour, making it an EF5 -- the strongest category of tornadoes measured, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.
Teams are still evaluating the destruction, and the rating released Tuesday is preliminary. So far, they've found that the tornado's width spanned 1.3 miles -- the length of more than 22 football fields lined up end-to-end.
Given its breadth and power, it ranks among some of the strongest storms ever to strike the United States, CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
Hardest hit was Moore, Oklahoma -- a suburban town of about 56,000 and the site of eerily similar twisters in 1999 and again four years later.
The scene -- block after block of flattened homes and businesses, the gutted remains of a hospital and hits on two elementary schools -- left even seasoned veterans of Oklahoma's infamous tornadoes reeling.
The devastation was so complete, the mayor said city officials were racing to print new street signs to help guide rescuers and residents through a suddenly twisted and unfamiliar landscape.
A search-and-rescue team was sent from nearby Tinker Air Force Base, which also provided search lights, vehicles and water trucks, while neighboring Texas sent an elite 80-member urban search team. The American Red Cross sent 25 emergency response vehicles.
Rescue crews were expected to complete a search for victims by late Tuesday, Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird told CNN.
"We will be through every damaged piece of property in this city at least three times," Bird told reporters. "And we hope to be done by dark tonight."
More than 230 people were injured, according to authorities.
'Can't believe this'
Some residents of Moore returned home to piles of debris, hoping to find pictures or some memento.
"You just wanna break down and cry," Steve Wilkerson told CNN, holding a laundry basket that contained the few, intact belongings he could find.