Oklahoma residents, volunteers begin massive cleanup effort
Posted May 22, 2013
MOORE, Oklahoma — Residents began returning home to their flattened Oklahoma town after a giant tornado killed at least 24 people, destroyed countless homes and reduced one elementary school almost entirely to rubble, killing seven children inside. Authorities said they were confident that all survivors and bodies had been found.
As state and federal officials work to set up disaster recovery centers to provide aid and assistance, residents of Moore were beginning the deliberate process of assessing what's left of their homes and possessions and what comes next.
Dr. Terrill Hulson, a life-long Oklahoman, knows what a tornado can do. But he had never seen destruction on the scale of that left behind by Monday's EF-5 twister. He set up a tent and called on 30 fellow doctors and nurses to help.
Hulson and his colleagues were cleaning cuts and bandaging injuries incurred by those working in the rubble.
Among his patients Wednesday was Andrew East, who grew up in Winston-Salem and had recently moved to Oklahoma with his mother. East was helping to clear debris and free a trapped dog when he cut himself.
Hulson administered a tetanus shot for East and recommended it to others who were working in the rubble of tens of thousands of demolished buildings.
"The exposed nails and splintered wood and the sharp metal, it's very dangerous to be working out there," Hulson said.
Helmeted rescue workers have been searching tirelessly for survivors and victims, and officials said Tuesday they planned to keep going — sometimes double- and triple-checking home sites. Officials were not certain of how many homes were destroyed or how many families had been displaced. Emergency crews had trouble navigating devastated neighborhoods because there were no street signs left. Some rescuers used smartphones or GPS devices to guide them through areas with no recognizable landmarks.
Monday's tornado, which traveled 17 miles (27 kilometers) and was 1.3 miles (2 kilometers) wide at points, loosely followed the path of a twister that brought 300 mph (482 kph) winds in May 1999. This week's tornado was the fourth since 1998 to hit Moore, a middle-class community that has been one of the fastest-growing suburbs of Oklahoma City.
From the air, large stretches Moore could be seen where every home had been cut to pieces. Some homes were sucked off their concrete slabs. A pond was filled with piles of wood and an overturned trailer. Also visible were large patches of red earth where the tornado scoured the land down to the soil. Some tree trunks were still standing, but the winds ripped away their leaves.