The Digital Desk

NewsOK | BLOGS

Storms -- and people helping -- are part of Oklahoma life

by Don Gammill Modified: May 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm •  Published: May 29, 2013

We just expect it. Things can get pretty stormy, and downright dangerous, here in Oklahoma. Even with the most sophisticated, advanced technology available, we still have death and destruction from weather events.

Growing up in Ponca City, I remember numerous severe thunderstorms, but few tornadoes in our immediate area. The biggest and worst twisters were elsewhere. In later years, after I moved to central Oklahoma, that changed. We were right in the pathway of several bad storms.

More than a decade of living in northwest Oklahoma provided a few scary instances of strong weather in an area that seemed designed for it, with little standing in the way. Then, a return to the middle of the state gave me a new perspective, and more respect for those communities that have survived in the wake of devastating weather.

Here are some notes about some weather events through the years in Oklahoma:

TORNADO DAMAGE: Bare tree limbs rise eerily as the damaged Woodward County courthouse stands in the background after a tornado struck April 9, 1947.  The tornado killed 95 persons in Woodward, Okla. and covered parts of three states.
TORNADO DAMAGE: Bare tree limbs rise eerily as the damaged Woodward County courthouse stands in the background after a tornado struck April 9, 1947. The tornado killed 95 persons in Woodward, Okla. and covered parts of three states.

* The deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history struck April 9, 1947, in Woodward. The tornado first touched down in the Texas panhandle, then crossed into Oklahoma.

It traveled on to Woodward, where it wiped out a large portion of the Woodward County town.

To this day, there is still a debate about just how many the tornado killed, partly because several people injured died later. The range is 107 to 116 generally, but some say more.

The tornado traveled through three states, finally lifting in Kansas.

 

* A longtime friend of my family was among those who had to pull himself out of the debris caused by a killer tornado May 25, 1955, in Blackwell.

The scene resembled a battlefield in May 1955 after a tornado slammed Blackwell. (Oklahoman Archives)
The scene resembled a battlefield in May 1955 after a tornado slammed Blackwell. (Oklahoman Archives)

He and his stepfather were able to get out of a demolished glass plant and make it to safety. Twenty other people didn’t survive the storm.

Most all the damage was on the east and northeast side of the Kay County town.

The biggest part of the area was rebuilt in a couple of years.

 

* It isn’t always a tornado that causes death and destruction during an Oklahoma storm.

Flood aftermath from the October 11, 1973 flood in Enid, Oklahoma. (Creek runs through park off Market street) Staff Photo By J. Pat Carter
Flood aftermath from the October 11, 1973 flood in Enid, Oklahoma. (Creek runs through park off Market street) Staff Photo By J. Pat Carter

Such was the case in October 1973 when nearly 16 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period, causing severe flooding and leaving six to nine people dead.

Local residents had to resort to using boats to travel through some neighborhoods to get to locations where they could carpool or be otherwise transported to work.

Some additions had water halfway or more up their walls inside their homes. In several spots, cars floated away or were stacked one on another by floodwaters.

* Moore has had tornadic experiences through the years, including one in November 1973 when a twister hit first in the Blanchard area, then moved through Moore and into Del City. Five people died.

MAY 3, 1999 TORNADO: Tornado victims, damage: Residents, relatives, and friends search through remains of homes along Windemere Dr. in Moore to salvage whatever they can. This view is looking east from Windemere Dr.
MAY 3, 1999 TORNADO: Tornado victims, damage: Residents, relatives, and friends search through remains of homes along Windemere Dr. in Moore to salvage whatever they can. This view is looking east from Windemere Dr.

The highest death toll came May 3, 1999, when a large tornado ripped through Moore, turning the landscape into a debris-filled landscape.

In all, 44 people died and thousands of homes were heavily damaged or destroyed.

Residents and local officials vowed to rebuild their city and did so.

* Now, Moore faces another challenge. But help is pouring in from throughout the country and around the world.

The EF5 monster tornado that struck Monday killed at least 24 people and caused an estimated 2 billion dollars in damage.

One of the most heart-wrenching stories to come out of this tragedy was that nearly half of those killed were children, ranging in age from 4 months to 9 years.

A neighborhood park is filled with debris  on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in Moore, Okla. that was left behind by Monday's tornado in the area near 4th and Bryant. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
A neighborhood park is filled with debris on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in Moore, Okla. that was left behind by Monday's tornado in the area near 4th and Bryant. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Seven of those who died were at an elementary school. Several others were saved due to the heroic efforts of their teachers, who covered the little ones with their own bodies to shield them from flying and falling debris.

Celebrities who call Moore or Oklahoma their homes have pitched in to help those who have lost  property and/or family members.

But in a city and a state where residents come to expect storms such as these, it seems we wouldn’t expect anything less from our citizens. People helping people. It’s part of life.

 


by Don Gammill
General Assignment Editor and Columnist
Don Gammill is general assignment editor and columnist. A native of Ponca City, he graduated from Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma). While in college, he was a sports stringer for The Oklahoma City Times....
+ show more


Trending Now


AROUND THE WEB

  1. 1
    The best high school basketball classes of the last 10 years
  2. 2
    Former Millwood star Josh Turner reinstated at Texas
  3. 3
    Chevy Volt top safety pick says insurance group
  4. 4
    Why won't the FAA let students fly drones?
  5. 5
    The rising cost of your kids' lunch gear
+ show more