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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid