Friday, May 31, 2013

Moore, OK Tornado Clean-up

On Friday the 24th I left after my shift at work to head to Hastings to meet up with Bailey, Josh and Travis to start our adventure down to Oklahoma City. We ended up having to take two vehicles because we had so many donations of clothes, bedding and water! Bailey and I took the Honda Pilot and with Bailey as our Pilot we headed on the road. I fell asleep shortly after we started driving and that way the trip didn't seem so long :) We ended up getting there Friday evening and it took us about 7 hours total with the many potty stops we had to make for Bailey. We stayed with Josh's friend Thomas and his girlfriend Amanda. They have a little house in OKC that they rent and even have a hairless cat named Paisley. I was pretty excited that they had a cat and I had never seen a hairless cat so it was quite the experience. Amanda warned us about the cat before we went inside the house and after we got in Bailey said "I'm so glad you warned us about the cat" because we may have mistaken it for a large rat!

We all went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and it was delicious! We all enjoyed some margaritas (minus Bailey of course) and had a great time. Bailey and I watched a couple moves while the guys and Amanda played drinking games. Then we got up bright at early at 7 to go start volunteering. We met up at a volunteer site that had shovels, masks and gloves for us and we waited in line for the buses that took us to the different sites that were damaged.

As we got closer and closer I kept wondering and wondering what it was going to look like in person. You see the images on the news but it was still a big shock when we finally saw all the piles of brick, wood, trees and belongings through the bus windows.

Poor Kitty that was found after being buried for 6 days! He didn't even have enough strength to drink water. The owner is holding him in this picture and had 3 other cats that were still lost. She had to take him to the vet and we wont ever know if he pulled through or not. While we continued to clean up at her house we made sure to keep an eye out for the other cats but had no luck. 

Through the destruction a symbol of how America will prevail! This picture was taken on the second day we were there in Moore. We were helping at Steve's house that was in a neighborhood that Obama had just visited hours earlier. 

People would spray paint their insurance company and address on their houses. Unfortunately we heard there was a cap on the amount of money people would receive from the insurance companies so who knows if they would get the value of their home back so they could rebuild. 

This carpeted area is where Steve's wife was during the tornado. She was in this closet with her two dogs covered up with a robe. Remarkably she did not even have a scratch! Steve was at work when the tornado passed and was worried about finding his wife when he returned home. The storm tracking in Oklahoma is so precise that they can pinpoint the street intersections that the tornadoes are crossing at that moment. 

Bailey and I with Steve, the homeowner. He wanted to take pictures of Bay's belly so he could remember who was helping him that day :)

Pretty leery finding! However the movie is based on Oklahoma tornadoes.

Spray paint reading "Love this home. Demolish per owner. we don't want it anymore!" Sad but not uncommon site in Moore. Houses could be categorized between repairable, demolish or pick up the remains. We sorted through the 2x4's and insulation to find photos, clothing or salvageable items that could still be used. Steve was excited to find a framed picture of his daughter but most of the stuff had to be set to the curb to be picked up for the junkyard. 

View of the OKC skyline as we headed from Moore to Oklahoma city. We could only stay about 3 hours each day because we would get so itchy from the insulation we were picking up. Travis got a pretty bad rash from it and Bailey and I got pretty sunburnt. We spent Sunday night putting vinegar on each other to help sooth the burns. Saturday night we went to Dave & Busters to play some arcade games and have supper and then Sunday night we ordered Papa John's Pizza (my request of course) and ate out on the deck. The weather in OKC was great and afterwards all of the girls went for a walk while the boys sat around the fire. 

The trip was quite an eye opening experience. Through the past years I have helped with major disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes now. When we helped at Katrina it was years after the hurricane had hit so they were in the rebuilding process. And as messy as flooding is, most of the houses are still salvageable but with this tornado the houses were knocked down to the foundation and only a very small percentage of Oklahoma homes have basements because of the high level of ground water. A homeowner can install a small shelter in the ground for about $2000. We also heard that they may put a new law in affect requiring all new homes to have a shelter installed. It is weird to think what you would do without a basement with winds reaching 200 mph. When we were younger we always had to go to the basement during storms and that was still scary. I can't imagine not having a place to go in that horrible storm.  You could definitely tell that the people of Moore had been through horrible tornadoes and all of the volunteering seemed to be very well organized. I'm sure the "shock factor" had already passed and everyone there was so nice and grateful for the help! I just wish we could have stayed longer!

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