Finding Normal After the Disaster: Oklahoma Tornado

Finding Normal After the Disaster: Oklahoma Tornado

Still reeling from Oklahoma’s EF-5 tornado, Cohen tries to plan next steps

October 1, 2013 by Staci Giordullo

“My street is kind of in limbo,” says Angie’s List member Jeff Cohen, who remains uncertain whether he’ll rebuild his home following the May 20 EF-5 tornado that ravaged his Oklahoma City neighborhood and others in Moore. “My house was on the southern edge of the tornado. So everything north of me is demolished down to the dirt, while everything south of me has comparatively minor roof damage,” Cohen says, adding that he considers himself lucky that his Farmers Insurance adjuster deemed his home a total loss. “Many of my neighbors are still struggling with insurance and being put through undue stress,” he says. “Some are fixing their homes when clearly they should be totaled, but have been convinced by builders or insurance that they can be fixed up. It’s a chaotic mess with no consistency from one home to the next.”

Cohen examines a collapsed ceiling in his home after a tornado caused heavy damage and allowed rain to get in. (Photo by Nick Oxford)

Cohen says Allied Response to Catastrophes — a grassroots group that coordinates volunteers, mostly through Facebook — tore down his house, and he hired highly rated Midwest Wrecking of Oklahoma City to demolish the foundation. He says he found ARC through Habitat for Humanity, after donating cabinets, sinks and fixtures for reuse. “Getting on social media after an emergency like this is absolutely critical,” he says. “You can find so many local support groups through Facebook. It’s an immediate response.”

Disaster victims need a central resource for help with relief, Cohen says. “We needed information about where to go for food, tools, donations, permits, legal help, and what benefits were available. This is where Facebook became invaluable,” he says. “When your whole community is scattered literally in the wind, it allowed many of us to reconnect and share these little-known resources without attracting a lot of the scammers.”

Cohen says he’s not 100 percent sure about his next move. “I’ll figure that all out,” he says. Despite turmoil caused by some bad actors in the area, he says he sees a flip side. “For every one of those, there are 50 good people with nothing but a willingness to help,” he says. “It really has brought our community closer and personally raised my hope and belief in humanity.”

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