When Peggy picked me up from work Monday, May 3rd we noticed the storm clouds to the southwest and wondered whether Lyndsey's scheduled softball game would be played. Soon after we got home the local TV stations began to issue thunderstorm warnings soon followed by what turned into continuous coverage of a developing tornado to the southwest of Chickasha.
Pictures broadcast by stormchasers showed the tornado rapidly develop into a huge funnel and the weather forecasters began to issue urgent warnings of the projected path of the storm. As it began to approach the H.E. Bailey Turnpike and the Newcastle area we began to discuss whether we should remain at our house or head over to Peggy's sister Patty's house since her neighbor had a storm cellar. When the forecasters began to issue warnings for Moore we decided to head for the storm cellar. By this time it had begun to rain and hail outside and the tornado sirens in town had begun to go off. We grabbed Max, our dog, piled into the car and took off.
After a mad dash across town to the storm cellar we huddled inside with about 10 other people, 4 dogs and a cat. With the storm sirens wailing and a radio tuned to the TV stations blaring the meteorologists' frantic warnings to take cover, we waited. Soon the lights flashed on and off then went out. Then we heard the tornado as it passed by. After a couple of minutes of silence someone opened the cellar door and peered out.
He announced that other than a few broken tree limbs everything looked okay. We all clinbed out of the cellar and looked around. There were a few fairly large hail stones laying around and branches and leaves, but that was all. We got in the car and headed for home to make sure our house was okay. As we passed the Northmoore Elementary School, a block to the west of Patty's house we saw four large trees in the schoolyard had been uprooted.
The entire city of Moore was without electricity. People were stopping at the intersections with dead stoplights as if there were stop signs put up. We got home, turned a radio on and began finding all the candles we could before it got too dark to see. As we listened to the radio we began to realize the extent of the damage. Patty called and told Peggy that her neighborhood to the north of her house was gone! We sat there in the dark the rest of the evening listining to the radio as they alternated between issuing a continuous stream of new tornado warnings for various parts of the state and covering the aftermath in Moore, Del City and Midwest City.
The next morning it was almost impossible to get out of Moore as all the highway exits and on ramps in town were closed. Every main street out of town was blocked due to damage. It was raining hard and traffic was heavy. I called my boss to let her know I would be late and she told me to go ahead and stay home, so Peggy and I stayed home that day and watched television coverage of the storm damage and relief efforts being started. The property damage and human suffering was overwhelming.
Late that day we drove over to Patty's house and walked into the northern half of her neighborhood and saw the devastation for ourselves. Words cannot describe the total wreckage that is strewn through the area. Peggy's younger sister Mickey, who lives in the same neighborhood, around the corner from Patty, took pictures, some of which I have posted here.
Almost two weeks after the storm life for most Moore citizens, those whose property was not directly damaged, has returned somewhat to normal. You can drive down most of the main roads most of the time now, and the highway on and off ramps are usually open. As we have been around more of town now the extent of the damage to this town is frightening. The storm cut a swathe almost a quarter of a mile wide from Penn and 134th St. to 27th and Eastern in Moore, about three and a half miles long before hitting some large open fields as it headed on northeast toward Del City. The damage in this swathe is total. Over 1,000 homes in Moore were destroyed. Westmoore High was seriously damaged and Kelley Elementary was destroyed. They sent in bulldozers this past week to finish the job on Kelley. The general consensus seems to be that it will take at least two years, possibly longer to rebuild. It will hurt the school system as they get a large part of their funding from property taxes and such a large part of that base has been destroyed.
I put the pictures on different pages, two to a page so people wouldn't be stuck waiting on one page with a bunch of pictures to download. I tried to keep the photos file sizes reasonbly small while still keeping the pictures large enough to see. Most of them are less than 30k. Below are the links.
All photos copyright 1999 Michelle Murphy all rights reserved.
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