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
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Looking back, Kitch began working as a police dispatcher for the city of Moore in 1984. Even before that, he'd done some storm spotting for the city of Norman. But he doesn't recall seeing any tornadoes.

However, after an F2 on Oct. 4, 1998, Kitch concluded, or at least wished aloud, that there would be no more tornadoes in Moore while he was the emergency manager.

“So then of course seven months later we get hit with an EF5,” he said.

A lot's changed since Kitch took the emergency management lead in 1991. At that time, Moore had 12 outdoor storm sirens. Before May 20, it had 36. And while he doesn't remember the number of shelters before May 3, 1999, he said 3,468 residential storm shelters are now registered with his office.

And then came May 20.

“The other storms seemed to take more of an angle through the city,” he said. “This storm was from one border clear to the other border. So we have a longer path.”

What isn't different is the difficulty in dealing with the loss of lives. So he said they will continue to study warning systems and educate the residents about severe weather. Kitch also will continue to work with meteorologists at the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office.

“If I lived in a town that sees as many violent tornadoes as Moore has seen,” said Rick Smith of the Norman Forecast Office, “I'd sleep well at night knowing that Gayland had my back.

“He's a true professional and a great guy. We at NWS Norman are proud to have him as our partner. We just wish he didn't have so much experience with tornadoes.”

While there have been differences in the tornadoes that have hit Moore, a similarity has been the reaction of those wanting to assist.

As Kitch stands in the park, looking toward the Heatherwood neighborhood, he notes that before May 20, trees and fences would have made it difficult to see anything but perhaps rooftops.

Now he looks at houses with blue tarps on damaged roofs, others with no roofs and those ground to the foundation by the tornado.

But he also sees people working around those houses. And he sees volunteers within a few yards of him, cleaning up the playground.

“People immediately came out,” Kitch said. “They took care of their neighbors, dusted each other off and within a day or two they were already pushing debris to the curb and making plans for rebuilding. And I think that you'll see this rebuilt just in short order.

“It will take some people longer than others ... but I think that you'll see this rebuilt pretty quick. I've seen it before.”

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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