Rebuilding again in Moore stirs emotions for builder

BY TIM FALL trfall@gmail.com Modified: September 26, 2013 at 5:09 pm •  Published: September 28, 2013

MOORE — On Harli Lane “is where it gets emotional,” homebuilder Marvin Haworth said.

Haworth was showing visitors some of Moore’s hardest-hit streets, where four months after the May 20 tornado, Marvin Haworth Homes and myriad other builders have dug in to build back up the devastated city.

Haworth paused on Harli Lane, in Westmoor Addition — a street lined with ripped homes, punctured roofs and lots scraped flat.

“I built these houses after ’99,” he said of the massive tornado of that May 3, which left similar ruins along an eerily similar path of destruction. “I named this street for my granddaughter.”

Westmoor is near Santa Fe Avenue and SW 149 in Oklahoma City, near the skinned plot of earth where on May 20 Moore’s Briarwood Elementary School stood and where now heavy machinery is preparing the ground for a new school.

Haworth, like so many Moore residents, has been here before.

He’s built homes since 1960, first with his father, Gene Haworth, then on his own. He’s watched seemingly wrathful but meteorologically indifferent tornadoes destroy nearly mile-wide swathes of his town not once, but twice.

Both times, after the shock subsided, came the work — rebuilding for those who decided to stay and try again.

“After ’99, I was hoping I’d never see another one,” Haworth said sadly, eyes fixed on the landscape of rubble.

In Moore proper, Haworth navigated through another pocket of destruction on streets numbered SW 14, SW 13, SW 12.

Then SW 11, where at the corner of Eagle Drive, flower-dressed crosses mark the loss of life that occurred where Plaza Towers Elementary stood. Nearby homes that remain — not leveled by 200-mph winds May 20 or by demolition crews in the weeks following — lean precariously, uninhabitable.

Haworth built many of those houses, in the 1960s.

“Some of them are still fighting with their insurance (company),” Haworth said of the owners, “or they were underinsured and now they’re stuck.” In all, 1,087 houses in Moore were destroyed, said Jared Jakubowski, special projects coordinator for the city. An additional 268 sustained major damage; 445 took minor damage; and 369 were affected, he said.

Many residents are rebuilding. Since May 20, the city has issued 218 permits for new construction, 377 permits for storm-µrelated remodeling; and permits for 897 storm shelters, Jakubowski said.

One customer who lost his home May 20 — Haworth built his home 35 years ago — called to ask Haworth if he still had the floor plan.

“I didn’t,” Haworth said, “but we were able to get started rebuilding, with a few updates.”

For many who choose to rebuild, updates will include one nonnegotiable item: a below-ground storm shelter.

In a tornado as strong as the one that hit Moore on May 20, “even concrete walls won’t survive” above ground, Haworth said. “Despite what some people say,” he said, it’s an engineering impossibility.

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