Disaster Strikes Oklahoma May 27, 2013

On Monday May the 20th, a deadly F5 tornado struck the small city of Moore, Oklahoma. The tornado initially touched down west of the city of Newcastle at 2:45 pm and stayed on the ground for approximately 50 minutes while crossing through a heavily populated section of Moore. At its peak, the tornado was 2.1 km wide and had created incredible winds with speeds of up to 310km/h.

The damage from the tornado has been vast. Between 12,000 to 13,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, 33,000 people were affected and 24 people, including 10 children, died. Another 377 people have also been reported to have been injured by the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Most areas in the path of the storm suffered catastrophic damage. Entire divisions and neighbourhoods were obliterated, and the majority of a neighbourhood west of the Moore Medical Center was wrecked, causing staff to relocate 30 patients to nearby hospitals. 

Among the hardest hit areas were two public schools: Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School. At Plaza Towers, 75 children and staff were present when the incident occurred. Amy Simpson, principal of Plaza Towers Elementary, praised the teachers at a news conference saying that her teachers emerged battered after doing everything humanely possible to save every child in the Oklahoma school. Regardless, seven second- and third-graders were among the 24 killed when the tornado struck.

The aftermath of the tornado, which some meteorologists estimated released more than 500 times the energy than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, has been equally as devastating. By May 21, Moore still did not have running water, and there were more than 61,500 power outages related to the tornado. Furthermore, part of the huge Interstate 35, and Interstate 40 highways were forced to shut down due to debris that had been thrown onto the freeway, along with a large number of overturned cars. 

Hours after the tornado struck, Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency in the area, and The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed Urban Search and Rescue teams, along with the Oklahoma National Guard  to provide immediate relief and to organize and support rescue efforts.

Since then, more than 100 people have been pulled from the rubble alive; however recent thunderstorms have hampered clean-up efforts by the community. The Oklahoma Department of Insurance said the claims for damage would likely be over $1 billion.

US president Barrack Obama is scheduled to visit Moore on Sunday, and provide much needed support and motivation to the devastated city of Moore, and its shattered citizens.

 

By: Taha Ahmed

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