We just expect it. Things can get pretty stormy, and downright dangerous, here in Oklahoma. Even with the most sophisticated, advanced technology available, we still have death and destruction from weather events.
Growing up in Ponca City, I remember numerous severe thunderstorms, but few tornadoes in our immediate area. The biggest and worst twisters were elsewhere. In later years, after I moved to central Oklahoma, that changed. We were right in the pathway of several bad storms.
More than a decade of living in northwest Oklahoma provided a few scary instances of strong weather in an area that seemed designed for it, with little standing in the way. Then, a return to the middle of the state gave me a new perspective, and more respect for those communities that have survived in the wake of devastating weather.
Here are some notes about some weather events through the years in Oklahoma:
* The deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history struck April 9, 1947, in Woodward. The tornado first touched down in the Texas panhandle, then crossed into Oklahoma.
It traveled on to Woodward, where it wiped out a large portion of the Woodward County town.
To this day, there is still a debate about just how many the tornado killed, partly because several people injured died later. The range is 107 to 116 generally, but some say more.
The tornado traveled through three states, finally lifting in Kansas.
* A longtime friend of my family was among those who had to pull himself out of the debris caused by a killer tornado May 25, 1955, in Blackwell.
He and his stepfather were able to get out of a demolished glass plant and make it to safety. Twenty other people didn’t survive the storm.
Most all the damage was on the east and northeast side of the Kay County town.
The biggest part of the area was rebuilt in a couple of years.
* It isn’t always a tornado that causes death and destruction during an Oklahoma storm.
Such was the case in October 1973 when nearly 16 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period, causing severe flooding and leaving six to nine people dead.
Local residents had to resort to using boats to travel through some neighborhoods to get to locations where they could carpool or be otherwise transported to work.
Some additions had water halfway or more up their walls inside their homes. In several spots, cars floated away or were stacked one on another by floodwaters.
* Moore has had tornadic experiences through the years, including one in November 1973 when a twister hit first in the Blanchard area, then moved through Moore and into Del City. Five people died.
The highest death toll came May 3, 1999, when a large tornado ripped through Moore, turning the landscape into a debris-filled landscape.
In all, 44 people died and thousands of homes were heavily damaged or destroyed.
Residents and local officials vowed to rebuild their city and did so.
* Now, Moore faces another challenge. But help is pouring in from throughout the country and around the world.
The EF5 monster tornado that struck Monday killed at least 24 people and caused an estimated 2 billion dollars in damage.
One of the most heart-wrenching stories to come out of this tragedy was that nearly half of those killed were children, ranging in age from 4 months to 9 years.
Seven of those who died were at an elementary school. Several others were saved due to the heroic efforts of their teachers, who covered the little ones with their own bodies to shield them from flying and falling debris.
Celebrities who call Moore or Oklahoma their homes have pitched in to help those who have lost property and/or family members.
But in a city and a state where residents come to expect storms such as these, it seems we wouldn’t expect anything less from our citizens. People helping people. It’s part of life.