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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke 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 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 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.

VOA Blogs