Most Crossed Off 'Missing' List

By Randy Ellis and Steve Lackmeyer Modified: May 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm •  Published: May 7, 1999
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The Insurance Information Institute, another trade group, estimates damage in Oklahoma and Kansas from Monday's storm at about $1 billion in insured losses.

Albert Ashwood, director of the state Civil Emergency Management Department, said a disaster declaration was requested for the five new counties mainly because of the need for individual assistance.

He said Ottawa County was added to the list because of flooding resulting from a storm system that went through the area.

Decimated metro neighborhoods were alive with activity again Thursday as residents returned -- most for the second straight day -- to scavenge for heirlooms and salvageable items.

From the ground, salvage efforts appeared chaotic. Displaced Moore residents battled frustration and gawkers as they attempted to fight through two-hour traffic jams on Interstate 35 for access to their neighborhoods.

Residents trying to outsmart gawkers by slipping in back ways were frustrated by the utility trucks that blocked off side streets.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. officials estimated Thursday about 19,000 customers were still without electricity. About 5,300 Oklahoma Natural Gas customers were waiting for their gas to be restored. However, many utility customers will never be reconnected because their homes or businesses were destroyed.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said only one public water system remains out of service -- the Mulhall system, where 95 percent of the community was destroyed.

From the air, recovery efforts were evident.

Blue plastic tarps could be seen popping up on the roofs of homes that still had roofs -- albeit with gaping holes -- and people could be seen stacking splintered boards and bricks in piles.

Oklahoma County officials were turning to the local assessor's office for help in identifying specific properties and determining whether structures on their property included storm cellars or basements.

County Assessor Mike Means said his field workers could help because they were familiar with the properties from previous land value inspections. The office keeps detailed records.

In cities and communities throughout Oklahoma, residents were rolling up their sleeves, clearing up debris and taking the first tentative steps toward rebuilding.

"When we walked out in the streets Tuesday, it was so overwhelming," said Perry Patterson of Mulhall, a town of 200 in which a tornado damaged every building. "Debris was as tall as the buildings. It was like too big a job. Where do you start?

"Now we've knocked some holes in it. We can see some light at the end of the tunnel."

A new roof was being put on the Oklahoma State Bank at Mulhall, and bank President Gregg Vandaveer said it could reopen for business as early as Monday.

Engineers arrived Thursday to begin repairing the historic First United Methodist Church, which lost its steeple but withstood the brunt of the storm.

The town remained without electricity Thursday, but pastors of the towns three churches were scrambling to arrange services for Sunday. In Stroud, electricity was restored to some parts of the community Thursday. A tornado took out about four miles of power lines and poles as well as the Tanger Outlet Mall.

Power to the city's water treatment plant was restored at 6: 30 p.m. Wednesday.

In Dover, nine miles north of Kingfisher, Fire Chief Kenny Benson said cleanup could be done early next week.

A tornado ripped through that town's west and northwest sides Monday night, causing an estimated $3 million in damage to homes. The town's grade school and high school were heavily damaged.

Classes resumed Thursday.

"The kids here felt so bad because they were wandering around town and didn't know how to help," Benson said. "Some of them were too young to help."

Staff writers Melissa Nelson, Christy Watson, Jack Money, Michael McNutt, Danny Boyd, Paul English, Mark Hutchison, Diana Baldwin, Bobby Ross Jr., Bob Vandewater and Andrea Perrin contributed to this report.

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