Ever-changing roadblocks staffed by officials from various agencies are combined with intersections closed, then opened and then closed again for utility repair. Add that to required access permits in some communities, but not in others, and proof of residency in the area and proof of identification, even if all identification was stolen by the storm. It all added up to a nightmare for people dealing with the storms' aftermath.
Floyd and Wanda Hodgens learned about the requirements the hard way Tuesday morning when they tried to return to the 1000 block of NW 21, a then-restricted area in Moore.
The same officials who watched them leave the street refused them entry only an hour later. Floyd Hodgens said officers instructed them to get an access permit at the First Baptist Church on the east side of Interstate 35. After making their way through detour upon detour to get there, they were told by a state trooper that permits were no longer being issued.
More than an hour after their first attempt to get back in the neighborhood, the Hodgenses resigned themselves. They parked their car six blocks away and walked home.
"And he's not very good at walking," said Wanda, 80, about Floyd, 82. "And neither am I.
"Nobody said we couldn't get back in when we left," she said. "They didn't say a word to us." But officials told LeRoy Straka, only a few blocks away from the Hodgenses, in an Oklahoma City jurisdiction.
A tornado wreaked havoc on Straka's farm at SW 134 Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Straka said officers told him he could leave the restricted area for any reason, including mending fences so his cattle wouldn't get out, but he wouldn't be allowed back in for any reason.
"I'm not griping -- I appreciate what they're doing -- but when they block us in like that, how are we supposed to take care of things?"
Organization and consistency are law enforcement challenges in the midst of such a disaster. And each community has approached the challenge differently.
In Midwest City, people needing to enter the restricted area must obtain an access permit at the local police department by showing proof of identification and residence in the area. People helping residents of the area gather belongings also must obtain an access permit. Hundreds of people had received permits by Wednesday, sometimes standing in line behind 200 others, said officer Jonathan Goforth of the Midwest City police department.
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