Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Update on Moore, Oklahoma Tornadoes

I'm getting a number of questions from friends this morning who have just heard about the tornado in my hometown of Moore, Oklahoma on Monday night (last night).

First off, my family is all safe.  I am unaware of any fatalities or injuries of friends.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for friends homes and businesses.

My mother and stepfather live at the end of a cul-de-sac. Their house is near the intersection of SE 4th Street and Bryant Avenue in Moore, across the street from Veterans Memorial Park. The tornado came through their cul-de-sac, but did not hit their house. Unfortunately, this is making it difficult for them to leave from a logistics perspective because the power lines are down and there is considerable debris. It has also started to rain today. 

They are still at home, trying to clean up and prepare to be gone for a while (weeks?). They do not have running water or power and will not for the foreseeable future. They report that they have a case of bottled water, so that's good news. My stepfather said that he has ripped down part of their fence to park their cars in the backyard.  I assume this is because the damage in the neighborhood faces the front of their home.

Here is a map of the 2-mile wide tornado's path. If you look closely, you will see that they were at the center of the path, on the east side of the path.  Look for the Veterans Memorial Park. They are in the neighborhood across the street from it. http://google.org/crisismap/2013-oklahoma-tornado

I have numerous friends whose homes and businesses were completely destroyed. I've known many of these folks since kindergarten and feel very sad that they've lost everything.  I also just got word that the farm where I rode horses growing up was completely destroyed.  As many of you know, my "sport" when I was younger was riding horses and that's where I did it.  I've also heard that the Dan McGuinness in Moore (opened by a number of Memphians) was hit and will be bull dozed down fairly soon. 

Sunday night, there were also other strong tornadoes that traveled east to Shawnee, Oklahoma. Shawnee is where I was born, and is where my grandmother and father still live. Those tornadoes were very close to my grandmother's home and leveled a number of homes near her. Luckily, it did not hit her house and she was able to make it to her storm cellar in time.

My brother Chris and his wife Kayla purchased a house near Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, but fortunately it was not near the tornado's path.  Kayla's family who lives in Moore is also okay, but her sister's boyfriend was not as lucky.  Although his family is safe, they completely lost their home.

I've gotten a number of questions about where to make donations. I recommend not donating to a small group that claims to be taking up donations. They are not always honest. If you want to donate immediately, I recommend the Red Cross or the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. This Facebook page has instructions on how to donate to these organizations: https://www.facebook.com/MooreTornado.

What I really recommend though is the Moore Public School system. The school system provided me a lot of support growing up that I needed to take things in my life to the next level. I know that they will need a lot of support now to get back on their feet. I'm working to get information on how to donate to the Moore Public Schools. Unfortunately, their administration building was also hit, so it may be tomorrow before I can share a donation address.

I've seen a number of folks say, "thank goodness everyone is alive."  I understand what they mean and I agree, but I always think it's sad when just being alive is the bar we're aspiring to.  Many of the people in Moore have lost everything.  EVERYTHING.  They may or may not have any insurance that may or may not pay for the damage.  Starting over with just the clothes on your back cannot be an easy task, so I would strongly encourage you to contribute if you feel compelled.

Also, I'm tossing around various ideas of how to help - one being a fundraiser to support the Moore Public School System here in Memphis.  Memphis community, if you are interested to help me, please send me a message.

I will do my best to post updates here.  Below are a few photos.  I think my parents will be sending more photos once they are able to get out, and I will do my best to post them here.

This is the street in front of my junior high school, Highland East.  My parents live just down the block from this.

A friend's home that I've known since Kindergarten. I'm not posting names for the sake of their privacy, but I want to share with those outside of Moore how bad the devastation is and how personal it is for people there.

Another friend who I have known since elementary school lived here.

A friend's childhood home where her mother was during the storm. She made it out safely.

Check back for more updates.  Again, if you are in Memphis and would be willing to help out with a fundraiser for the Moore Public School System, please let me know.

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