Sun was hard to come by in Moore, Oklahoma, Tuesday. The sky still looked menacing, dark and foggy. Mist turned to rain. Lightning struck.
From the air, this suburb outside Oklahoma City looked like flattened cardboard. On the ground, homes were messes of splinters. Cars, thrown like toys, sat in ridiculous places. Hunks of steel hung in trees -- the trees that were left. Most were shaved down to gnarly apocalyptic wishbones.
When people were allowed back on their street -- if emergency crews gave them the green light -- that's when the real trauma set in for many.
It's bizarre and disorienting when every landmark and sign your eye knows is suddenly gone and there's miles of nothing in its place.
"It's funny when you can't tell your own stuff when you get back and look at it like this," Mack James said, standing in the rubble that used to be his house.
Moore has no power. Water is out and volunteers are handing out bottles. The twister is gone but the danger is still real.
Gas lines are being checked. Crews are out searching for live wires.
"It was horrible," recalled one elderly woman, sitting in a chair near piles of debris. "The thunder and the sound was like a turning of the world. It was so bad but we were in the cellar right out there. You could hear the thing just blowin', hear the pounding.
"I can't even believe I'm still alive."
The realization of the loss of material things is just beginning. Photos are gone. Family heirlooms might not ever be found.
But there is worse. Rescue workers are still trying to find survivors, as reports keep coming in about those missing.
Wearing a thick red hoodie, Zack Woodcock looked intensely worried and lost in thought as he told a CNN reporter that a wrestler on his son's wrestling team was missing.
"It's hard," he muttered, looking like he hasn't been to sleep.
The death toll was 24, according to Oklahoma City Medical Examiner spokeswoman Amy Elliott. Nine of the dead are children, she said.
Frantic kids and parents
On Monday evening, kids screamed for their parents and parents hollered their children's names, walking and searching in panic in a parking lot near Briarwood Elementary.
"Caleb! Caleb!" one woman could be heard screaming, as another woman, her face bloody, walked zombie-like through the crowd, holding a young boy's hand.
"Step over the wire!" someone shouted. Adults and children zigzagged past each other. One man went to a little boy standing alone, whose face was just then cracking into a full-out cry. The man put his arm around the child and they both looked out into the chaotic parking lot, apparently searching for the boy's parents.
One mother who spotted her son sitting with his teacher on a curb gently grabbed the boy's hands and stood him up and then learned her whole body over him, hugging him. She cried and then laughed and cupped his face.
"He was so brave!" the teacher said.