Toby Keith returns to roots in Oklahoma to comfort family and friends

Tornado in Oklahoma on May 20, 2013 / Michelle Snyder / KFOR / MGN Online

Country music star Toby Keith will be visiting Central New York this summer, but right now he's taking time off from the road to go back to his roots.

Keith is back in his hometown of Moore, Oklahoma, comforting family and friends. Parts of the Oklahoma City suburb are reduced to rubble in the wake of Monday's monstrous tornado.

The E-5 tornado cut a 17 mile path through town. Wind speeds surpassed 200 miles-per-hour.

Keith knows the neighborhoods that were hardest hit. He grew up four blocks away, and lived there through almost the end of junior high.

Driving around, he says the damage is devastating to see. Pointing out landmarks to NBC's Matt Lauer, he says the view was worse from above.

"It was even worse flying in because I know all these streets," Keith told Lauer, in an interview for the TODAY show. "That little grocery store on the corner there is where we got our baseball cards; where we got our gas for mowing lawns in the summer."

Keith is surprised at the level of destruction, but says these people know how to recover.

In 1999, a tornado weaved a very similar path through Moore, tearing through some of the same parts that were hit on Monday.

But this time, two elementary schools took a direct hit. Nine third graders are among the dead.

"It's just awful, I mean it hit the schools," Keith says.

In the midst of the rubble, Keith credits the community's ability to rise above the destruction.

"As bad as this looks right now, these people are so resilient," he says. "They'll bounce back. Homes will start going up quick, and they'll prepare for the next one."

Toby Keith is scheduled to perform at the Grandstand at the State Fair in Geddes, Friday, August 23.

A household name for many Central New Yorkers, Keith also owns Toby Keith'sI Love This Bar & Grill in Destiny USA.

(Information from NBC News was used in this report.)