Reflections of a Week That Delivered Tragedy
This week began as any week can or should. We had already seen some storm damage from Sunday and Monday came around muggy and the chance of storms again.
As the morning progressed, I kept an eye on the weather charts and updates from the news service and radar was on constantly. Around 1 p.m. we started getting the first hits on the EAS about severe weather in the area. Looking outside and to the East of our studios, I was taken aback by the size of the clouds which were forming. Asking for a couple of people to come and look at the storm, my response was “It’s going to be a monster.” How little did I know that it would come to pass.
Shortly after that the first reports of a tornado warning for Stephens county came across and that is where I live. The storm, short lived as it was, still caused a bit of minor damage to the area and had power out for several hours.
But it was the next storm that started out by Newcastle that caught everyone’s attention. At 1:54 p. m. a cloud rotation started forming and soon became what would be described by some as worse than the May 3rd, 1999 storm that leveled parts of Moore.
2:46 tornado in the ground at Newcastle moving N.E. towards Moore. It crossed over the South Canadian River twisting up parts of an old bridge that has been there for 90 years. A land mark if you will for those of us who travel to OKC we know that once we see the bridge, we are almost to our destination.
By 3:10 the tornado had zeroed its sights on Moore. And in the direct line were two schools. Briarwood and Plaza Towers. Neither would survive the storm. Neighborhoods were swept clean. The Moore Medical Center was demolished. Cars were hurled around as if they were nothing at all. The Warren Theatre took a major hit but its walls were still intact and became an instant triage center.
The storm now with winds clocked at near 200 mph made its way over I-35 and continues moving N.E. Then at 3:36 p.m. just as it started with a swirling of a cloud, the tornado ropes out and dissipates.
Then the chaos began. People walking in a daze, parents seeking their kids. Storm cellars were covered with debris. Many people dropped what they were doing to assist in moving bricks, wood, metal or anything that was covering up individuals in need. When it was all said and done, 24 people including 9 children (all in the Plaza Towers School) were killed. The damage estimates are in the early stages reported to be near 2 Billion dollars.
We who live here understand the possibility that on any given day, during tornado season, our number may be called. We are always on alert. They come out of no where fast and furious and then are gone just as fast. Unlike the coastal areas who prepare for hurricanes and have days to make the necessary precautions. Moore had all of 20 minutes from the time of the initial warning to get ready. Many homes did not have storm shelters. The two schools did not either. Scores of people in cars and business were caught unaware of where to go or what to do. Some rode out the storm in safe rooms only to open the door and see nothing around them.
The next morning, we at TSM Lawton commenced a major drive to accept donations for tornado relief. We filled up 4 trucks and 1 container with essential supplies to be sent to the city of Moore. Along with over $6,000 raised for the American Red Cross.
We as fellow Oklahoman’s hurt with our fellow citizens of Moore. But we also know that we are resilient and we will rebuild. It may not be today or tomorrow but Moore, Oklahoma will rebound and be stronger than ever before.