LONE GROVE — Bob Mashore drives twice daily from Ardmore to Lone Grove to faithfully water his wife Cherrille’s hibiscus plants outside what used to be the couple’s home.
"These hibiscus plants, they need a lot of water, so I come here every day,” he said Tuesday, two days before his 75th birthday. The Mashores’ home of 30 years became a storage barn shortly after a Feb. 10 tornado ripped through Lone Grove and blew away its second story. The couple have been living at an Ardmore hotel since, waiting for their new house to be completed this fall. Still, they consider themselves lucky. The EF-4 tornado that struck Lone Grove killed eight people and injured 46. It destroyed 114 homes. The same storm system, unusual in February, caused damage further north in parts of Edmond, Oklahoma City and Payne County. Lone Grove, a town of about 4,600 people 10 miles west of Ardmore off U.S. 70, was struck hardest. The Mashores could have been injured had not Cherrille Mashore decided to buy a storm shelter three years ago. "She’d always wanted one,” said Mashore, whose wife of 50 years has been in a wheelchair since 1988. "She got some inheritance; she put it to good use.”
New challengesLogistics and crisis management are nothing new to City Manager Marianne Elfert, a retired lieutenant colonel who once was in charge of Army payroll. But the magnitude of the Lone Grove tornado and its aftermath presented new challenges, ones Elfert said the city has handled well with help. Government, nonprofit and church groups mobilized quickly to assist with immediate needs. Volunteers contributed an estimated $167,000. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Oklahoma had allocated $750,000 for Lone Grove’s recovery, Elfert said. Because the city employed county staff and inmates instead of contracting the job to a private firm, the cost of clearing 3,006 tons of debris over two months was $550,000. "We still have a long-range recovery team and $200,000 of support is still available,” the city manager said. As for individuals and families, Elfert said: "I think everybody has been taken care of as much as allowed financially, and counseling is available. They thought of bringing in some FEMA trailers, but they weren’t necessary because so many had family and friends.” Elfert said Lone Grove and Carter County are working on hazard mitigation plans. They include buying generators for city buildings and the senior center and increasing the number of outdoor warning sirens from two to seven so everyone within its 34 square miles can hear them. Elfert also mentioned a legislative effort to require storm shelters at mobile home parks.