Nature’s dark side, Day 2: May 20 Moore tornado

Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman

Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman

I was hoping yesterday that the predicted severe weather for Monday would fizzle out, sparing us a repeat of what happened Sunday night in central Oklahoma. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Things just got worse.

This time, the bulls-eye was in Moore, a suburb of about 50,000 on Oklahoma City’s south side. It’s been the site of several large tornadoes going back to 1998, including the infamous May 3, 1999 storm.

I worked in Moore for about 3 1/2 years at a small paper there, so I know the town pretty well. I’ve known its mayor, Glenn Lewis, from way back. In 1999, I was working at the Oklahoma City paper, and was sent to Moore right after that deadly storm.

I remember thinking that outside of a hurricane, there could be no worse natural disaster than this. Fires burned from wrecked buildings. Smashed homes as far as I could see. National Guardsmen being bused in to help with relief efforts. The smells of wet timber, gasoline and natural gas. Stunned, mud-caked people walking out of their wrecked neighborhoods carrying pets or sometimes random items like fishing poles or whatever else was salvageable. Trucks towing trailers hauling the wounded.

It looked like a war zone.

The statistics were mind-boggling Winds clocked at 320 mph, the fastest ever recorded anywhere. An estimated $1.2 billion in damage. A tornado that was on the ground for hours, carving a path from southwestern Oklahoma all the way to Tulsa’s doorstep. Forty-four killed.

Surely we’d never see anything like this again.

And then we did.

As of this writing, the tornado registered an EF-4 (winds up to 200 mph). Its damage path was more limited, but the level of destruction in Moore is at least roughly equal to what happened in 1999. Two schools destroyed, and many of the 24 found dead so far were kids huddling inside those school buildings, thinking they were in a safe place.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Moore rebounded from the 1999 storm in spectacular form. People rebuilt, and under steady leadership, the city transformed itself. Prosperity abounded.

I have no doubt they’ll do so again. But I don’t blame folks there for feeling weary of this. In between this storm and the one in 1999 have been other less severe but still destructive — and deadly — tornadoes that have hit this town. And this time, with so many of the dead being kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School, the depth of the tragedy seems particularly  cruel.

I promise that this site is not going to transform into some sort of weather or current events blog. But it’s hard to think of much else when so many people I know are dealing with this mess right now. Say some prayers for Moore. Go online or by text and donate to the Red Cross. If you’re close to the Moore area, find out what your local churches, employers and relief agencies are doing to help and join in.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088


5 thoughts on “Nature’s dark side, Day 2: May 20 Moore tornado

  1. A group from my gym is heading to help relief efforts and bringing a truckload of donated supplies with them. We here next door in Arkansas know we will likely need the return favor at some point.

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