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May 2013 Tornado Coverage

State Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs)
Oklahoma House of Representatives

Organizers have launched a signature-gathering campaign for a $500 million bond issue to put storm shelters in public schools.

The group Take Shelter Oklahoma filed a petition on Wednesday with the Oklahoma Secretary of State's office to get the issue on a statewide ballot. Once the ballot language is given final approval by the attorney general, supporters have 90 days to gather about 155,000 signatures of registered voters.

The plan calls for the debt service on the bond issue to be paid by the annual franchise tax levied on businesses.

Kerry Rodtnick / University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

Leaders in Moore say tornado recovery efforts have caused sales tax collections to skyrocket in the city.

The Norman Transcript reports that Moore received more than $2.6 million in total sales tax from the Oklahoma Tax Commission in September. That includes general fund receipts, which are up more than 12 percent from last year.

City Manager Stephen Eddy calls the numbers "amazing" and says rebuilding efforts from the May 20 tornado are likely responsible.

fence in Moore, Oklahoma with "Hope" written in flowers
Wesley Fryer / Flickr Creative Commons

It’s only been little more than three months since an EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., and devastated two schools. And already, the state’s public schools are responding.

State Farm / Flickr Creative Commons

When the massive EF5 tornado ripped through Moore on May 20, it took out homes and business alike. Since then, the Moore City Council has been considering updating building codes to make homes safer. But as the Journal Record‘s Molly M. Flemming reports, the city’s construction standards for commercial buildings aren’t being altered much:

Those codes are likely to stay the same, with one slight change.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

This is part two in StateImpact Oklahoma's "Twister Truths" series where we use data to kick the tires on the conventional wisdom underlying severe weather policy in Oklahoma. Read part one here

Despite the risk that comes with living in Tornado Alley, many Oklahomans are reluctant to build tornado shelters. And state and local building codes don’t factor for twisters.

It's been eight years since Hurricane Katrina, and about three months since the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Okla. Mike Smith points out a commonality between the two storms and human reaction.

School Year Begins In Moore, Oklahoma

Aug 16, 2013
The National Guard / Flickr Creative Commons

Students are back in school in Moore, Oklahoma, nearly three months after a deadly tornado tore through town.

The storm killed a total of 25 people, including seven third-graders who had hunkered down at the Plaza Towers Elementary School with their teachers.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On a Friday, this is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

Oklahoma was hit particularly hard by two massive outbreaks this year in what's been another deadly season of tornadoes in the U.S. Despite technology and forecasting improvements, scientists still have plenty to learn about how and why tornadoes form.

Currently, one of the best ways for researchers to understand how tornadoes form is to chase them. So off they go with mobile science laboratories, rushing toward storms armed with research equipment and weather-sensing probes.

The National Guard / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials at Moore Public Schools welcomed teachers to a new school year following a devastating tornado that destroyed two schools and damaged many others.

Superintendent Robert Romines spoke to more than 1,400 Moore Public School teachers Monday morning – 84 days after a massive tornado struck the community. He says about 750 new students enrolled in Moore Public Schools during the 2013-2014 school year.

Survivors of May's tornado look at a car damaged in the storm.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Moore City Council has approved more than $32 million to pay for cleanup costs related to the deadly May tornado. 

Moore Finance Director Jim Corbett says the city foots the bill for the cleanup costs, then is reimbursed by the state and federal government. Corbett says the city received its first payment last week from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Twenty-five people died after the EF5 tornado tore through Moore, including a 90-year-old woman who died last week after suffering a fractured skull in the twister. 

SFC Kendall James / U.S. Department of Defense

Editor's Note: This is part one in StateImpact Oklahoma's "Twister Truths" series where we use data to kick the tires on the conventional wisdom underlying severe weather policy in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, state and local emergency authorities emphasize individual shelters in peoples’ homes over communal shelters in schools or other civic buildings. As we reported here, almost all the federal disaster funding the state receives has been directed to rebates for the construction of residential shelters and safe rooms.

boy walking through rubble
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Since the deadly tornadoes that struck the state this spring, StateImpact has been taking a look at Oklahoma’s severe weather policy, and asking questions like: Why aren’t there more safe rooms in schools?

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

More than 10,000 individual tornado shelters have been built in Oklahoma since 1999 with the help of a state rebate program that provides up to $2,000 toward the cost of installing safe rooms in homes or underground.

So it seems the state is doing a lot to make taking shelter simpler and more affordable.

Oklahoma City Adds Debris Cleanup Crews

Jul 16, 2013
Defense Imagery / Wikimedia Creative Commons

The City of Oklahoma City is releasing more contracted crews to help clean up debris left behind from the tornadoes that tore through the state in May. 

Residents are asked to divide debris into three piles, all of which will be collected by separate crews. Those piles include storm debris, normal bulky waste, and hazardous materials. Collection begins July 22.  

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Of the many ideas for changes to state policy following May’s deadly tornado outbreak —changing building codes to make public structures safer, requiring shelters in new school buildings, providing money to upgrade schools without shelters — the one that has the best chance of actually happening is ‘tornado days.’

Local superintendents don’t need any approval to cancel school in the winter— or spring, when sunny weather can quickly turn violent.


Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Moore City Council on Tuesday delayed a vote on an ordinance that would strengthen construction standards to help reduce damage from tornadoes.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Moore City Council has tabled a proposal that would have required storm shelters for houses, apartments, mobile homes and group residential housing.

Also Monday, the council delayed voting on a measure that would have required bolting and fastening to strengthen homes against tornadoes. The Norman Transcript reports Mayor Glenn Lewis says the city will meet with local builders before moving forward with the ordinances.

GovMaryFallin / Twitter

Gov. Mary Fallin says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved public assistance for 16 counties hit by May storms that brought tornadoes and flooding to Oklahoma.

Fallin said FEMA approved the request on Friday that she submitted Wednesday.

The storms caused an estimated $40 million in uninsured infrastructure losses, and debris removal and response costs.

FEMA says disaster assistance for the state now tops $25 million dollars.

Survivors of May's tornado look at a car damaged in the storm.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Several state lawmakers want to increase the penalty for looting after numerous reports of theft from victims whose homes were damaged or destroyed in last month's tornadoes.

Legislators representing several areas hit by tornadoes in May said Friday that they plan to introduce a bill next session to change looting from a misdemeanor to a felony.

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