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Oklahoma tornadoes: 27 remain hospitalized from tornadoes

Officials are expecting Sunday's Moore prayer service to be heavily attended
by Randy Ellis Modified: May 24, 2013 at 9:26 pm •  Published: May 24, 2013

Local hospitals reported 27 individuals remained hospitalized Friday from injuries suffered in Sunday's and Monday's tornadoes, as healing continued throughout central Oklahoma.

Authorities now are reporting as many as 387 individuals were treated for injuries related to the storms. At least four of the hospitalized patients remain in critical condition.

The death count stayed at 26. Twenty-four of the fatalities were from Monday's tornado that hit Moore and south Oklahoma City. The other two were from a tornado Sunday that inflicted its worst damage in the Bethel Acres-Dale area west of Shawnee.

Officials said they are expecting a large crowd to attend a prayer service for victims of the May tornadoes that will be held 6 p.m. Sunday at the First Baptist Church, 301 NE 27, in Moore.

Seating on the ground floor will be reserved for tornado victims, while others can sit in the balcony area or the church's fellowship hall. The church has a capacity of 4,500 and overflow seating will be available at Westmoore High School, 12613 S Western Ave. in Oklahoma City.

There will be no parking at the church. Shuttle service will be offered from the Crossroads Mall parking lot, 7000 Crossroads Blvd. in south Oklahoma City.

As bodies continue to heal, improvements also could be seen in the scarred central Oklahoma landscape. Some property owners continued to pick through shattered homes, while others began pushing rubble to the curb.

In response to a request for assistance from Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan, more than 700 volunteers showed up to aid county workers in cleaning up a tornado damaged neighborhood in Newcastle.

Brandon White was part of a Dell technical support team that showed up to help. White said his team will be glad to help people with storm-caused computer problems in the days ahead, but Friday was more of a “debris removal” operation.

Others who want to assist the continuing cleanup work in Newcastle can go to 851 Carr in Newcastle between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.

In Moore, cleanup tools ranged from backhoes to brooms and long-handled dust pans.

David Becknel, an employee of the Moore School District, deftly wielded the latter tools in a parking lot outside Moore's Central Junior High, meticulously sweeping up insulation and pieces of roofing material and putting them in a barrel.

More than 14,000 Oklahoma insurance claims have been opened within the last three days as residents gear up to rebuild, announced state Insurance Commissioner John Doak.

Doak Friday called for a moratorium on all insurance nonrenewals, cancellations and terminations for all areas impacted by Sunday's and Monday's storms.

Doak is requesting that insurers not cancel policies of customers unable to make payments due to storm-related disruptions in the notification process of cancellations, nonrenewals or reinstatements.

“I'm issuing a bulletin today … that coverage shall continue in the counties declared a disaster by Gov. Mary Fallin,” he said. “Insurers cannot cancel, nonrenew or terminate coverage while this bulletin is in effect.”

Rate increases also are prohibited dating to Sunday until the governor declares the emergency over, Doak said.

Counties covered by the directive include Caddo, Cleveland, Comanche, Creek, Garfield, Grant, Greer, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Payne and Pottawatomie.

Refills will be required to continue for people with prescription drug coverage, he said.

The Insurance Department has set up a staging area at the First Baptist Church of Moore. Insurance companies and rental car agencies are on site and some checks in excess of $200,000 already have been issued, Doak said.

Transportation continues to be a problem for some displaced residents, he said, issuing a plea to the public to find a way to help displaced residents staying in University of Oklahoma dormitories and other locations reach the church so they can obtain claims assistance.

“We're going to take fraud very, very seriously in the state of Oklahoma,” Doak said, adding that all licensed adjusters, agents or brokers needing access to storm-damaged areas must come by the church first to get special badges.

“In the last two days, we've registered over 1,800 claims adjusters,” he said.

Doak urged storm victims to avoid doing business with roofers, contractors and others who do not have proper credentials from the city of Moore.

Doak said he is asking former insurance agents who are no longer licensed to volunteer to assist his agency in helping customers.

Keli Cain, public information officer for the state Emergency Management Department, announced that more than 3,100 Oklahomans have registered for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and more than $1.4 million has been distributed to registered individuals to date.

Contributing: Staff writers William Crum, Diana Baldwin, and Jane Glenn Cannon.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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