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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The "Storm of Storms" Took Unknown Lives, Leaving 237 Injuried

       Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin gave a news conference Tuesday, stating officials are trying to find out if other victims might have been taken to local funeral homes and have not yet been counted in the death toll.  "We're going through that debris, and we're going to keep looking until everybody's found," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said at the news conference.  Unsure of people who may still be missing, first responders have vowed to check each damaged piece of property three times to ensure no one is overlooked.
       "This was the storm of storms," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said.
       Plaza Towers Elementary School took a direct hit when the tornado struck its destructive 20-mile path through Newcastle, Moore and parts of southern Oklahoma City for 40 minutes, leaving in its path at least seven children dead and some missing.  Classes were still in session at Plaza Towers when the twister, estimated to be packing winds of 190 mph or greater, crushed nearly every corner of the property.
       Teachers’ cars were thrown into the building, and the playground no longer exists. “All you could hear were screams,” local resident Stuart Earnest Jr. said of the scene at the school after the storm. “The people screaming for help. And the people trying to help were also screaming.  I can only hope those little kids killed didn't suffer,” said Earnest, one of many who rushed to the school to help survivors.

       Monday's tornado was estimated to be more than a mile wide at times. Its path was nearly identical to the one taken by a record-breaking May 1999 tornado that devastated the area.
      Before storms and tornadoes struck Oklahoma these last couple of days, my mother and family living here in California had gone home to bury our cousin. Unfortunately, now all their lives are in danger.  I couldn't make the journey as I'm nearly nine months pregnant, but of course I can't help but feel a sense of dread as now my entire family, except my sister, is in Oklahoma under what my uncle's neighbor called, "hell." 
        Living in Oklahoma, storms and tornadoes are a part of life. One continues grocery shopping, errands or what ever it is one was doing while listening to the weather channel to know when it's time to go inside, evacuate or leave.  Our reality, and as crazy as it sounds, is shown in that my mother and uncle were at his house still pulling weeds during the down pours, thundering and updates on the tornadoes when it finally touched down. Above is a NBC news time lapse of a tornado that only lasted about 1 minute and 45 seconds.
        My mom said, "What could we do? We were surrounded by them, so all we could do is stay here at the house and relax." So once the last weed was pulled, down pour and all, they casually strolled into the house with my mother heading to take a 15 to 20 minute shower. 
        Unbeknownst to them, I'm frantically calling my uncle's house and cell phone, in between calling my mother's cell phone. Periodically getting a busy signal or the recording, "This call cannot be completed as dialed" when I know the number is dialed correctly.  And as if the news reports of at least 51 people believed to be dead aren't bad enough, I'm texting and calling my other family that lives in OKC to help do a head count of who is OK (and accounted for) and who hadn't been heard from since the storms struck and all phones went down.  
       So as they casually strolled indoors from gardening in the middle of this storm, under the Oklahoman haze of "tornadoes are a part of life," let me further drive home how bad this storm set had become. When my mother had finally called me back and told me that upon exiting her shower some nearly 20 minutes later, "the darn thing was still on the ground spinning!"
       All I could say is, "Wow!
Sweetwater Oklahoma Tornado
Sweetwater Oklahoma Tornado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Now I'll be the first to say, that this is one of the main reasons why I left Oklahoma.  Tornadoes produce very beautiful, purple, pink and grey colored skies, but having the threat of our lives being turned upside down once a year, or every other year, because we live in "tornado alley" is not something I wanted to continue doing.

English: Oklahoma City, OK, May 14, 2010 -- A ...
English: Oklahoma City, OK, May 14, 2010 -- A shell is all that remains of a home destroyed by one of 22 confirmed tornadoes trhat struck the state on May 10. These storms produced the fouth largest single-day outbreak in the state's history. FEMA Photo by Win Henderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        So far most of my family is accounted for but please let us all take a moment and pray for those who were not as fortunate; those believed dead, hurt, displaced and all of whom are still dealing with the unknowns of when and where the next tornado will strike land.
Union City Oklahoma Tornado (mature)
Union City Oklahoma Tornado (mature) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
~Namaste, Mia 
Follow me @miawhwn and @WHWNMagazine  
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