NEWCASTLE — An amputee needed a new wheelchair ramp to get into his tornado-damaged home.
Some of his neighbors have moved into trailers, or remained in their damaged houses where they sleep on screened-in porches.
Others have had no heating and air conditioning since May 24 tornadoes caused damage across the county, said Linda Molsbee, Newcastle vice mayor and chairwoman of the McClain County long term disaster recovery committee.
The committee was formed with volunteers to oversee the efforts and various organizations assisting in disaster recovery from the May 24 tornadoes. A series of ribbon-cuttings at homes fixed up and rebuilt is under way. The first ribbon cutting at a restored home was at the home of Zarabeth Butler on Oct. 28.
The tornadoes destroyed 119 homes and businesses and damaged 189 others in McClain County, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reports. “We're still working like crazy people trying to recover from the tornado,” Molsbee said.
Charlene Phillips, 37, was at home on May 24 with her husband, Marcus, and their two sons and two daughters when the tornado swooped in. They rode it out in a neighbor's storm cellar.
Their house was covered by insurance, and they've been living in a 30-foot travel trailer while it's being rebuilt. But they won't be in the new house before Christmas. Charlene Phillips said her children are “stressing.”
“I still cry,” she said. “People have forgotten about it, but we still have to hang our clothes outside to dry. It's been like camping out.”
Marcus Phillips, 38, is doing most of the work on the new house.
Kenneth Walker Jr., who lives next door to the Phillips in the Carr addition, lost his wheelchair in the tornado. His house was damaged and his car was destroyed. Repair work on his house has not been completed and he is still living in it.
Another problem across McClain County is debris, Molsbee said. Uprooted trees, broken branches and trash remain strewed throughout the county.
“You just go around and look at what is still left,” Molsbee said. “I'm still trying to figure out what we can do because we have a staggering amount of debris, especially in the creek beds.”
Federal funds have been used for a lot of tornado recovery so far, says Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
She said $843,097 has been spent providing residents of the county housing assistance for tornado disaster-related needs.
Also, $1,020,241 has been spent providing furnishings, transportation and medical and other needs for tornado victims, Cain said.