The storm crossed the state line, killing 14 people in Missouri. The 175 mph winds destroyed or damaged 200 homes.
"The tornado sped up everything,” Reeves said, referring to a $60 million Tar Creek federal buyout. "Some people were not quite ready (to leave), but with the tornado, they didn’t have a choice.”
Most people, especially the elderly, thought there was a chance they could stay in Picher. About 125 people remain in the town.
"We will probably go through the end of the year,” Reeves said. "It’s hard to shut down a town.”
Picher was being abandoned before the tornado struck. Residents were being paid to leave because abandoned underground mine workings left the surface susceptible to collapse. The area is part of the Tar Creek environmental Superfund cleanup site.
Children have suffered lead poisoning over the years, and environmental cleanup associated with mine waste has been ongoing since 1983.