News / USA

On the Scene in Tornado Hit Town: 'Even Trees are Stripped of Everything'

VOA correspondent Greg Flakus is at the site of the tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma. He spoke with English broadcaster David Byrd Tuesday afternoon about what he is seeing.

 Nathan Ulepich searches outside the back of his house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
Nathan Ulepich searches outside the back of his house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma.
Greg Flakus
Byrd: Greg, can you describe for our listeners what in looks like in this town?

Flakus: The first thing you have to understand is not all of the town was affected, in fact it's only a very small area compared to the overall area. But it's a good 10 percent and certainly affected probably hundreds, maybe even a few thousand people. There were people's homes completely shattered. I'm standing right now in an area where you see mud and debris. Walking around, you have to be careful. There's a lot of debris and broken pieces of metal and that kind of thing in the mud. And it's amazing to think as you look at this is that these were once comfortable homes. These were places where families went to sleep at night in their beds, where they shared dinner. And now you look and all you see are scraps of broken wood and twisted metal. Even the trees have been stripped of everything. They're just like sticks coming out of the ground. They don't look alive. They don't look like a living thing. They look dead.

Byrd: City officials have been reluctant to give a final death toll in this storm. You told me the number of people actually killed is still fluid. What are some the steps that the city is still taking to catalog or to find everybody who was either injured or who was killed.

Flakus: One of the problems is that since electricity and most essential services were cut off in this town. Even in parts of town that weren't directly affected by the tornado, they don't have power. So they had to take people to other hospitals in Oklahoma City and in nearby Norman and other communities. You also have a lot or firemen and policemen and officials from other parts of the state here, so just getting all that coordinated is kind of a problem. And they haven't had time to fully assess it. So they say it'll be a few days before they get that worked out. They aren't even sure, really, about the exact number of homes destroyed and businesses. I walked along a part of where I'm right near right now and you had a row of businesses in kind of a strip mall. All of them completely destroyed. I talked to one woman there who told me that in the meantime, all the employees are without work, The owner, of course, has no income coming in. And that's going to have a big impact on this town because you have many businesses that aren't functioning because they were destroyed, but many others, just because they don't have electricity or water or other services.

Byrd: This town is located in what is referred to as 'Tornado Alley,' which is a strip through the central United States where this kind is storm is common. But this particular storm was a rare one. I understand this was an EF-5 tornado  the highest you can get on the measurement scale.

Flakus: I'm not sure. The last I heard was E-4, but I've been out here in the muck and debris and I may not have heard that. But this town was hit by an E-5 tornado about 14 years ago and it's a pretty amazing thing. Somebody was saying that mathematically, the odds are just enormous that something like that would happen. There've only been about 10 of those really big storms recorded and two of them have happened here.

Byrd: What's the spirit of the people like? Are they mostly still in shock or are they determined to rebuild?

Flakus: They're for the most part determined to rebuild and neighbor helping neighbor, community coming together helping people. There's a great spirit here. I have, however, talked to a few people who've said 'I've had enough. These tornadoes that come every year and I want to move somewhere else.' Maybe they'll change their minds later but some of them I think were quite spooked by it. I've talked to a couple of people who have told me about certain psychological effects, how they jump and spook at noises and things when you have storm conditions as we did earlier today, people get nervous. they think 'Now what. Maybe another tornado.' So that psychological impact is going to linger for some time.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs