I don't think I can find the words to correctly capture the utter devastation my community feels. The devastation I feel. I will try to capture it in words, but I know that I will fail to capture the overwhelming sadness, devastation, shock, and exhaustion I and many others feel. For those of you unfamiliar with tornadoes, they are a literal force to be reckoned with. Oklahoma is in the middle of Tornado Alley. The University of Oklahoma has a nationally recognized Meteorology program. The National Weather System is two miles west of my home. Oklahoman KNOWS tornadoes. Meteorologist tell us days, often a week, in advance that there will be conditions favorable for tornadoes. They tell you streets, intersections, directions, time lines....anything you need to know to be safe.
Sunday morning, people in my area knew that around 3:00 PM the weather would turn treacherous. We knew. I knew. My friends knew. By 4:30 PM I was taken to my friends house. (I still have not been cleared to drive since my surgery.) My friend has an underground shelter. (You need one if you live in Oklahoma.) By 5:30 PM sirens were going off in my city, warning us that a tornado was either seen or forming in the area. There were TWO. They hovered over our city. Neither touched down...in my city. One continued east to Shawnee, Oklahoma. I have a friend who lives in the area. She and her family are fine. Her town...
As I watched the coverage of the aftermath of the tornado, I felt grateful that my city was spared, but enormous sadness for those who lost so much. When I saw the devastation of a trailer park, I thought about when I helped with clean up a couple of years ago. A trailer park was leveled by a tornado and the owner of the property needed help cleaning up the neighboring field. The pictures you see on television and the internet and the newspaper...SEVERELY FAIL at capturing the significance of the loss. When you are standing in a field and you are surrounded by baby pictures, baby clothes, letters, bills, toys, clothes, family pictures, etc, you KNOW you are seeing people's lives...their memories. It was a humbling experience.
So I went to bed Sunday night feeling sad...grateful...and aware that Monday would be a repeat.
Initially, the thought was the storms would come through around the same time Sunday's storm hit. That changed. And THAT change, made a HUGE difference. It made things VERY SCARY. I want to stress that at 2:00 PM, there were NO storms in the state of Oklahoma. At noon, meteorologists said they would be issuing a Severe Weather Warning at 1:00 PM or 1:30 PM, depending on when the sun appeared and warmed the atmosphere to a point of instability. One of my friends lives in the Newcastle area. The school staff called parents that morning and told parents they either needed to pick up their kids by 1:00 PM or the children would be taken to a storm shelter. The District feared the instability could spin tornadoes similar to Sunday's storms, which by Monday, we knew the tornadoes were EF4 tornadoes. (Tornado scale is EF1 to EF5 based on wind speed and damage). Tornadoes of the EF4 and EF5 variety make up less than 1% of tornadoes. Sunday produced TWO.
At 2:00 PM, shortly after a friend left my house, heading north, (through Moore) meteorologist announced three storms that suddenly popped up on radar. All three storms showed signs of possible rotation. One of the storms was south of my city, one was in west of Newcastle, one was west of North Oklahoma City. By 2:10 it was clear the one near Newcastle was developing RAPIDLY. It was estimated it would hit Moore by 2:50 PM. If you don't know about severe weather, it is extremely rare to go from nothing to a significant storm within 45 minutes. At 2:10 the only thing we knew for sure was that there were strong winds up to 60 mph and hail. There was a hook, suggesting more could develop...I called my friend who just left and told her what to expect. Moore, Oklahoma is 6 miles north of my city. My friend who has a shelter came to get me. By 2:30 PM, the storm had a rotation and it was about to drop on Newcastle. At the time I did not know that my friend, who lives in the Newcastle area had picked up her children and had decided to go to a house with a shelter. I called to tell her about the storm, fearing her children, who attend Newcastle schools, would be in harms way. When I got no response, I was concerned. When I saw the tornado, and the meteorologists described its power, I panicked. My friend did call. She and her children were physically unharmed. The friends who provided shelter were physically unharmed. My friend described her experience and then said, "I will have nightmares. And we are getting a storm shelter. We will have one."
Around 2:45 PM it was believed that the tornado that had hit Newcastle was gaining strength and was headed toward Moore, Oklahoma and the northern part of my city. The meteorologist started mentioning streets and landmarks. Streets and landmarks I see on a regular basis. I just saw Iron Man 3 at Warren Theater on Saturday. Two weeks ago, I spent three days in Moore Medical Center...and I have a doctor's appointment on Thursday in that building. (Correction, just got a phone call. It is cancelled and will be rescheduled. My doctor has to find some place to see patients.) Both places were believed to be in the tornado's path. My friends, SEVERAL friends, live on the streets mentioned. The schools mentioned, are schools I have worked with faculty and children. At 2:45 the sirens in my city sounded. Meteorologists reported the tornado was at least a mile wide. The tornado was being described as a monster. Then we lost power. Four adults and three children without power, knowing that a monstrous storm was headed in our general direction. Three IPhones and none of them could get information.
Fifteen minutes later we got a storm radio working. The information we heard was DEVASTATING.A large portion of Moore, Oklahoma was leveled. At one point, the tornado with its debris band measured 2.25 miles wide. Schools were leveled. Neighborhoods demolished. Businesses gone. Daycares gone. Not just some places. PLACES I KNOW. PLACES I GO. PEOPLE I KNOW. This feels very personal. This is an ache I can't describe. And I didn't lose my house, or my car, or a child. But I know people who experienced loss. And every time they talk about the schools...and the children...I don't have children, but I have spent a large portion of my life working with children. Most of my friends have children. I LOVE children. I cannot even begin to imagine what I would feel if I heard my child's school was leveled by a tornado. I can't....
Understand, at one point the meteorologists said over and over, "You will not survive this storm if you are above ground. You will not survive. This storm is eating up everything in its path."
At 9:00 PM my power and cable were restored and I finally saw the devastation. I just...
If you want to help...If you can help, text "Redcross' to 90999 and that is a $10 donation.
If you can't donate, pray for Oklahoma. Four of our communities have been devastated. Lives have been forever changed.
If prayer is or is not your thing, send positive energy.
If positive energy is or is not your thing, learn to listen to weather warnings so you can be safe should you be in a similar situation one day.