The town of Moore has been all but demolished by a horrifically strong tornado that stayed on the ground for more than 40 minutes, chewing up buildings and spewing debris throughout the area.  The confirmed death toll is bad enough, but it’s expected to rise as rescuers sweep what remains of Moore:

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Rescue teams combed through pulverized buildings and splintered homes early Tuesday after one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history blasted through the suburbs of Oklahoma City, killing at least 51 people — including 20 children.

Officials warned that the death toll from Monday’s mid-afternoon twister was almost certain to rise significantly when dawn broke in the devastated city of Moore, and as more bodies were taken to the medical examiner.

Children were among the many missing after the tornado delivered a direct hit to two elementary schools. Seven children drowned in a pool of water at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was all but leveled.

Be prepared for the number to go up:

“It is going to go higher,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Tuesday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” of the death toll.

The New York Times puts the death toll higher already:

Emergency crews and volunteers continued to work through the early morning hours Tuesday in a frantic search for survivors of a huge tornado that ripped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least 91 people, 20 of them children, and flattening whatever was in its path, including at least two schools.

While the town got some good news from schools in the immediate aftermath, “dozens” were still trapped in one by late last night:

Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore was reduced to a pile of twisted metal and toppled walls. Rescue workers were able to pull several children from the rubble, but on Monday evening crews were still struggling to cut through fallen beams and clear debris amid reports that dozens of students were trapped. At Briarwood Elementary School in Oklahoma City, on the border with Moore, cars were thrown through the facade and the roof was torn off.

The Tulsa World has a more pessimistic take on Plaza Towers:

In a drizzle under hastily erected bright lights, dozens of emergency workers searched into the night Monday for the missing children at the flattened Plaza Towers Elementary School.

“They’re looking for life, but they have not had any hits recently, so they’re in recovery mode now,” Gov. Mary Fallin said late Monday after touring the devastation.

About half of the injuries, CNN reports, probably came from flying wood in the storm:

If you want to know how to help the victims of the disaster, KSDK and USA Today give the information:

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has several shelters open in Oklahoma and Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles have begun delivering hot meals throughout the affected areas. The Red Cross is also working to link loved ones in Moore who are OK through a website called Safe and Well. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, donate online, or donate by phone at 1-800-RED CROSS.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is activating disaster response teams and mobile feeding units to help residents and rescuers in Moore, Okla., as well as in other locations in the Plains and the Midwest that were impacted by tornadoes. Donate online or text STORM to 80888 to contribute $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts or make a donation by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY. If you’re sending a check make sure you put the words “Oklahoma Tornado Relief” on the check, and mail it to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK., 73157.

Operation USA

Los Angeles-based international relief agency Operation USA announced it’s providing emergency aid where needed to community-based health organizations across Oklahoma. Donate online, by phone at 1-800-678-7255, or by check made out to Operation USA, 7421 Beverly Blvd., PH, Los Angeles, CA 90036. You can also donate $10 by texting AID to 50555. Corporate donations of bulk quantities of disaster-appropriate supplies are also being requested.

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief says it has deployed at least 80 volunteers to respond to severe weather in Oklahoma. Those interested in helping can make a tax-deductible donation to the BGCO’s Disaster Relief ministry online or call (405) 942-3800. You may also send checks to: BGCO Attn: Disaster Relief 3800 N. May Ave. Oklahoma City, OK 73112.

And pray for all those in Oklahoma — the victims, their families, the physicians and their staffs, and the first responders who will have a horrible, horrible task ahead of them.

Update, 9:28 am ET: Possibly some good news — the toll has actually gone down considerably, at least for now:

That’s still going to go up as rescuers go through the town, but at least it won’t be quite as bad as feared.