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Moore's emergency manager has seen enough tornadoes in his hometown

Gayland Kitch is the emergency manager for city of Moore. He has seen several large tornadoes hit his city since he took the job in 1991.
by Bryan Painter Modified: June 24, 2013 at 9:04 pm •  Published: June 24, 2013

A concrete slab is sprinkled with debris at what was the Highland East Junior High gymnasium.

Nearby at Veterans Memorial Park, some of what remains of the playground equipment is slightly tilted.

Gayland Kitch has served as emergency manager for the city of Moore the past 22 years. Before he arrived in 1991, the city hadn't had much in the way of tornado activity since the 1970s.

But on his watch, there have been at least half a dozen twisters, including the three he's seen out of his office window. Among those were the F5 of May 3, 1999, and the F4 on May 8, 2003. Kitch also watched the debris swirling from the EF5 of May 20, the one that also caused the aforementioned damage.

Too much devastation

So those eyes behind the sunglasses have seen far too much devastation.

However, Kitch never forgets that this isn't just the city he works for, but this is “My city, my home.” And while he hasn't lost his house or more importantly any loved ones to the tornadoes, he also hasn't lost the memories of the many great days in Moore.

Kitch, with the driver's side window of the blue pickup down, looks toward the gymnasium slab and sees himself several years ago sitting elbow to elbow with wife, Shirley, at their children's band concerts held there. His daughter, Alyssa, played the flute and oboe while she was in junior high. Later on, Austin played the horn.

Alyssa is now 29 and Austin, a senior at the University of Oklahoma, is 21.

But the memories are fresh, as Kitch has classical music playing lightly on the pickup's radio.

“Angie (Taylor) was the band instructor and is still here,” Kitch said of Highland East Junior High. “We're good friends with her, so I suspect my son and I will probably end up helping her rebuild some of the instrument cabinets.”

You do carpenter work, he was asked.

“Not as much as she thinks,” Kitch said with a laugh. “But we'll probably end up helping in one form or another.”

Driving east, he arrives at Veterans Memorial Park. Kitch mentions family outings and a time when Austin's Cub Scout pack gathered in the park.

“There used to be a merry-go-round out here somewhere,” he said. “And I remember his mother being very irritated with him, and me too, that he'd lost his slide for his neckerchief. So somewhere out here there's a slide that belongs to my boy.”

Immediate response

As the emergency manager for Moore, Kitch coordinates all of the emergency management activities of the city, including hazard mitigation, emergency and disaster preparedness, training and exercising, public education, communications and warning, response, and recovery activities.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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