On the ground in Oklahoma
MOORE, Okla. -- Most of us have no idea what an EF-5 tornado looks like.
We don’t know what 200-mile-per-hour winds feel like.
But unfortunately, several communities in Oklahoma experienced both a few days ago, in what some are calling one of the worst tornados in history.
The images of the storm’s destruction were shocking. Heartbreaking. So incomprehensible that we at Angie’s List wanted to help.
We sent an email to our members in the Oklahoma City area – just checking in and making sure everyone was OK. We wanted to meet with as many members as we could and find a way to help, so Thursday morning, Angie’s List videographer Rachel Hardy and I boarded a flight to Oklahoma. Back at company headquarters, an employee fundraising effort began, and donations will be made to the Red Cross.
Many members responded to our email and invited us into their homes – ready and willing to share their stories, experiences and advice on what kind of immediate and long-term assistance disaster victims really need.
Our first stop was to visit with member Haley A. and her family, whose house is just three blocks from the Moore Medical Center on Telephone Road. Haley, her husband and their two daughters, ages 3 and 4 months, rode out the storm in the family’s underground storm shelter.
“It was a lot bigger than anyone thought,” Haley says of the tornado. And though they can see the damaged hospital and main storm path from their front yard, their house miraculously made it through with minor siding and roofing damage.
“We were very fortunate,” she says.
They stayed in the shelter for about 30 minutes, and when the storm had passed, Haley and her husband Jeff walked down to the block towards the medical center and soon saw the destruction.
“It looked like a bomb went off,” Haley says.
Haley said in the storm’s immediate aftermath, live power wires covered the streets and posed imminent danger. But in the midst of the instant chaos, they heard screams of people trapped underneath the wreckage. Not thinking twice, the two jumped in to help.
“We were able to help get one lady out,” Haley says.
A registered nurse, she went back to her house to get extra stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, as a makeshift triage unit was immediately set-up at the Moore Warren Theatre.
Haley’s family left town for several days soon after, since the area was without utilities. After returning home and surveying minimal damage, they feel blessed to have been unscathed by Monday’s storm.
And although they helped save a life that dark day, Jeff says they’re by no means heroes. “I would hope somebody would do that for us.”
Rachel and I had the chance to see it for ourselves. Though we’ve all seen the debris and damage on the news, the scene in person is unbelievable. At the medical center, windows are blown out.
An air duct and part of an HVAC system is protruding through one broken window. What used to be a parking lot now looks like a junkyard, with cars almost unrecognizable and some stacked three high.
Across the street, a 7-Eleven was completely leveled. Gas pumps lie completely mangled on the ground, and fumes still fill the air. A young man visited the scene with a bouquet of flowers and told me that his friend’s cousin and young baby didn’t make it out alive. He knelt at the scene for several minutes – silently taking in the tragedy as tears rolled down his cheeks.