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5/23/2013 8:51:00 PM
Oklahomans deal with tornado damage
By Michelle Charles

Multiple lines of severe thunder storms moved through Oklahoma from Saturday through Monday, bringing with them strong straight line winds, heavy rains and violent tornados.

Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties, including Payne, on May 19 after storms damaged and destroyed structures in Bethel Acres, Carney, Edmond, Little Axe, Norman, Shawnee and Wellston and tossed vehicles that were caught on the road in its path. A tractor trailer was thrown from the I-40 overpass onto U.S. 177 near Shawnee.

Monday afternoon brought even more dangerous weather, culminating in an EF5 tornado that stayed on the ground for 17 miles and flattened homes, businesses and schools in a 30 square mile area from Newcastle through Oklahoma City and Moore.

Late Monday, President Obama issued a federal disaster declaration for Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties, paving the way for federal assistance to residents and government entities providing aid in those counties. Gov. Fallin's office said more counties could be added as damage assessments continue.

As the level of loss in Moore was revealed, people and corporations made pledges of support. Corporations like Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, OG&E and Continental Resources pledged over $6 million either to Red Cross or general relief efforts, Walmart pledged $1million in cash and in-kind donations and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant pledged $1million in challenge funds through his family foundation. His challenge was met with $1 million from his team and another $1 million combined from the NBA and the NBA Player's Union. At press time the death toll had been adjusted to 24 after earlier estimates put it as high as 90. Some casualties appeared to have been counted twice, according to the State Medical Examiner's Office. Search and rescue efforts continued in the Moore area on Tuesday as Lincoln County residents began their own recovery process.

The residents of Carney, which had an estimated population of 646 in 2011, saw 20 homes destroyed and 12 damaged as a tornado skirted the south edge of the town on Sunday.

Stillwater organizations and individuals have responded to the losses suffered as close as 23 miles to the south on U.S. 177 by collecting supplies to feed and hydrate people, make them more comfortable and help them as they go through the clean-up and recovery process.

American Red Cross initially opened a shelter at the Carney Senior Citizen Center but by Tuesday afternoon, it announced that the Carney and Little Axe shelters had been converted to feeding and supply distribution sites.

Stillwater Medical Center employees gathered donations of water, sports drinks , baby food, formula, diapers, personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies as well as work gloves to protect hands, heavy socks to protect feet and shovels to clear debris.

Stillwater FFA students collected similar items and Oklahoma State University provided at least two drop off points for donations on the second floor of the Student Union and in a transit bus parked at the corner of Hall of Fame and Washington St. The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce announced The 19th Hole and Wilson Chevrolet were also serving as drop off points for donations.

Stillwater Medical Center and Stan Clark Company restaurants Eskimo Joe's , Mexico Joe's and Joseppi's were also collecting cash donations for the American Red Cross. Most local groups said they planned to spread their donations among the affected communities, starting in Carney and ending at a drop site that would distribute the supplies in the Oklahoma City/Moore area.

By Tuesday evening, the Moore Oklahoma Tornado Recovery webpage reported that relief organizations were being overwhelmed with donations of household items, toys, towels and blankets and were asking everyone to hold those items for now.

It also reported that clothing is not needed at this time. The greatest immediate need is for first aid items and kits, bottled water, sports drinks, individually wrapped snacks, baby supplies like formula, diapers and wipes, work gloves, shovels, storage containers and fi ve gallon buckets.

Different items will be needed later. Donors are asked to check the current needs by going to www.moore.recovers.org or www.okstrong.ok.gov for the latest information on recovery efforts.

Financial donations to Red Cross, Salvation Army or similar organizations like Feed the Children, the Regional Food Bank or Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief that are already providing services in the disaster zone are another way to help.

Cash donations can be used for any unmet need as it arises and is often most helpful. Stillwater Habitat for Humanity is also working with Habitat chapters in affected areas to send volunteers to help with clean-up efforts.

People interested in joining that effort should call the Stillwater ReStore at 405) 372-8100 and ask for Jennifer.

Finally, Eskimo Joe's will host a benefi t concert organized by local musicians on Wednesday May 22 at 8p.m. Organizers said another, larger, concert might also be in the works.

How to Volunteer If you're not a trained emergency responder you can still find hands-on ways to help victims of Sunday and Monday's tornadoes.

The Oklahoma City- County Health Department is asking that people who want to volunteer to help with disaster relief in the OKC-Moore area to please go to the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps (OKMRC) website atwww.okmrc.org. OKMRC is designed to bring together different healthcare-related organizations and members of the community, including physicians, nurses, public health workers, and other medical professionals.

In addition, volunteers without a background in medical training are needed. To volunteer, go to www.okmrc.organd click on "OKMRC Inquiry".

Please click on the opportunity link for more information about volunteering. A mental health center will open in Moore to help those affected by the storm, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said.

The department also asked that mental health professionals and certified recovery support specialists interested in volunteering their services contact them at (405) 522-3908 (Main Number) or 1-800- 522-9054 (Toll Free)

Red Cross reports it will soon need additional volunteers to replace those currently on the job because many of them have already responded to recent incidents like the Boston bombing. To start the process to become a Red Cross volunteer, contact the Stillwater offi ce at 405) 372-1833.

Stillwater Habitat for Humanity will be sending teams of volunteers to help with clean-up efforts. People interested in joining that group should call the Stillwater ReStore at 405) 372-8100 and ask for Jennifer.

How to Donate Red Cross • Text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 that will be added to your cell phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance. • Call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) • Go to www.redcross.org Regional Food Bank • Text the word FOOD to 32333 to donate $10 via cell phone • Go to www.regionalfoodbank.org Salvation Army •

Text the word STORM to 80888 to donate $10 via cell phone • Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769) • Mail a check marked with "Oklahoma Tornado Relief" to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK., 73157 Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Assistance • Call (405) 942-3800, • Go to www.okdisasterhelp.com • Mail a check to BGO Attn: Disaster Relief 3800

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