Anniversary of a killer tornado
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• May is tornado month.
• Examples of the damage from the Moore tornado.
• Whats a safe room?
• How many safe rooms in the Moore school district?
PREAMBLE: I have made a few more videos (most of them less than 2 mins) on the subject of Fracking for Dummies and Non-Experts. How to access? See at bottom of this blog writeup.
MAY IS TORNADO MONTH.
I opened an Oklahoma newspaper today, 22 May 2018. The front-page headline was The Moore Effect. The story was about an immense tornado.
May in Oklahoma is a deadly time for tornadoes. The cooler winds from the north meet the warmer winds from the Gulf of Mexico in a line that extends roughly northeast and centers on Oklahoma. This clash of weather systems produces massive thunderstorms, and if there’s any rotation in the storm at all it can be amplified quickly into a tornado.
Five years ago in May 2013, I was hiding in a storm cellar in southeast Kansas after a tornado warning siren blared, and it was a nervous time as we watched the progress of the storms on TV. You can read about that story HERE. Five adults and three dogs were squashed together in the cellar — and scared because only eleven days before a similar line of cells under the same atmospheric conditions spawned an EF5 tornado which pumped ripping winds at 210 mph. On 20 May 2013, that immensity had blasted Moore, Oklahoma, a bit south of Oklahoma City, resulting in 24 deaths, seven of whom were children huddling in a school that was flattened. When an EF5 hits, you are perfectly safe in one place only……a storm cellar or a “safe room”.
EXAMPLES OF THE DAMAGE FROM THE MOORE TORNADO: As the tornado struck an oil production site, four oil tanks were blown away, one of which was never found. One of the others was found a mile away. The tornado maintained its intensity as it struck the Orr Family Farm and the Celestial Acres horse training area, where up to 100 horses were reported killed, some being tossed into and tangled in downed power lines or thrown on top of nearby buildings; several horses that survived the tornado suffered severe injuries, with some being impaled by tree limbs or boards. Every building at Celestial Acres was either leveled or swept away, the ground on the property was scoured to bare soil, and vehicles were thrown and stripped down to their frames. A 10-ton propane tank on the Orr Farm property was picked up and thrown more than a half-mile through the air by the tornado, and a strip mall near the farm was completely leveled as well.
SO WHAT’S A SAFE ROOM? A room above ground that’s encased by 16-inch cinder-block walls, an 8-inch concrete roof, and a 6-inch concrete floor. The windows are more then an inch thick and can withstand an object hitting them at more than 250 miles per hour.
At least 65 school districts across the state have constructed safe rooms since 2013 (Oklahoma has 525 school districts.) But, if a tornado strikes, students and staff in Westville near the state’s eastern border will only be able to go to hallways and closets. “If a tornado happens, we’re probably in trouble,” said the superintendent because the district has no safe rooms. Voters have not approved property tax increases needed to issue a bond to supply safe rooms. The truth is that Oklahoma is a poor state, particularly in the east where bond issues require too high a tax increase.
But the memories of the EF5 in 2013 don’t go away. Robert Romines, an administrator for Moore Public Schools, has a clock in his office set permanently to 3:18 when the EF5 hit. The storm destroyed Briarwood elementary school before striking Plaza Towers elementary school less than 2 miles away where 7 students huddled in a hallway were killed. “That is not something any of this community will ever get over,” Romines said.
HOW MANY SAFE ROOMS IN THE MOORE SCHOOL DISTRICT? Before 2013 there existed only 2 safe rooms. Since then safe rooms have been added in 8 buildings. Now 5 years later, the school district is adding certified safe rooms at every site that houses students and staff. In 2015, Moore voters approved a $209 million bond issue to put safe rooms at the remaining sites. By March 2019, all 35 sites that house students in the Moore school district will have safe rooms.
My iPhone now tells me we will have thunderstorms here in south-east Kansas the next 3 days, so I’ll be watching the sky and listening for tornado sirens!
This blog includes excerpts from an article titled “The Moore Effect” in The Oklahoman, 20 May 2018.
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