Samaritan's Purse (May 23): Helping After Deadly Tornadoes in Oklahoma
On the left side of SW 20th St. in Moore, Oklahoma, houses are damaged. There are pieces of wood sticking through roofs and random items littering yards. This area is the home of Karey Lake.
On the right side of the street, there is total destruction. Occasionally two walls of a house are still standing, but nothing more. Entire second floors are gone, littering the yards and roofs on the left side of the street. This area is the home of Lake's good friend Kara Peterman.
The neighborhood was hit hard by the monstrous EF-5 tornado that devastated the Oklahoma City area on May 20. This is where Samaritan's Purse has come, to help storm victims like the Lakes and the Petermans.
Around 3 p.m. on May 20, Lake and Peterman were at Lake's house with Lake's 3-year-old daughter. Her 11-year-old autistic son, Gavin, was at school. They heard the tornado alert on the TV, but they weren't particularly alarmed. Oklahoma is part of "tornado alley." Such alerts aren't uncommon.
The sirens went off, but the women still stayed in the house.
"It didn't have that certain feel and smell," said Lake, an Oklahoma native.
Although Lake didn't think the tornado would hit her neighborhood, she and Peterman took her daughter into her storm cellar. Peterman wanted to go home, but Lake asked her to stay. They climbed down, and then Lake went to shut the door.
"But the pressure had increased so much, we couldn't get the door closed," she said.
They could see the tornado and all the debris flying above them. After pressing herself against the steps to put as much force behind the door as possible, she was able to close it.
"We could see through the crack of our storm cellar," she said. "I saw half of a tree come flying by."
After only a few minutes, it was over. There was complete silence, and the rain stopped. Lake and Peterman climbed out of the cellar. They saw Lake's home across the street with nearly nothing standing.
"If she had been in the house, she wouldn't be here," Lake said.
Lake immediate set out to find her son. She walked to his school, but all she saw was rubble.
"Being in that place was bad," Lake said as she pointed to the cellar. "But not knowing where my little boy was for two hours, it was bad. I couldn't stand being there anymore, seeing the search and rescue dogs and calling my son's name and not knowing if he was in there."
Eventually one of her neighbors brought him home, and her husband was able to make it home from work. The family was safe and reunited.
Many of their neighbors have left, and the Lakes will have to move into an apartment until their roof can be repaired.
Samaritan's Purse will be helping people by tarping damaged roofs, cutting and removing downed trees, and cleaning up debris.
Staff members were on the ground less than 24 hours after the terrible twisters devastated the area. Two Disaster Relief Units were deployed from our North Carolina headquarters before dawn on Tuesday and arrived in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
"Our prayers are with all of those who are suffering because of this massive storm," Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham said. "We are going to stand by them and do everything we can to help them recover physically, emotionally and spiritually."
Our Disaster Relief Units are tractor-trailers stocked with heavy-duty plastic, chainsaws, generators, and other tools and equipment. The units also serve as command centers for the response. One is based at Emmaus Baptist Church in Moore. The other is located at Family of Faith Church in Shawnee, a town about 35 miles to the southeast that was hit by a tornado on May 19.
"We're going to be much more effective with Samaritan's Purse than what we could do on our own," said Mike Booth, pastor at Emmaus Baptist. "This was just a lot better way of us being able to help our community."
Volunteers will begin helping storm victims by cleaning up debris, salvaging personal belongings, cutting up and removing downed trees, and tarping damaged roofs as soon as we are able to get into the affected areas. Working alongside Rapid Response chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, our teams will let people affected by the tornadoes know that God hasn't forgotten them.
"When a storm devastates a community, one of the most important ways Samaritan's Purse staff and volunteers help is finding and salvaging the personal belongings of victims who have already lost so much," said Brent Graybeal, program manager for the response in Moore. "A homeowner is grateful when you patch a hole in his or her roof, but it's usually nothing in comparison to finding a grandmother's wedding ring or an irreplaceable family photo album. We know that by helping people pick up these pieces it provides comfort and a sense of hope for the long road ahead of them. It's allowing the homeowners to start rebuilding their lives both physically and spiritually."
The monster storm hit the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, leveling homes, businesses and schools in Moore. At least 24 people were killed, including nine children. Entire neighborhoods are in ruins. The funnel cloud was seen for miles, creating a debris field several miles wide. Houses are reduced to debris piles, and cars and trucks are strewn along roadsides.
"It looks like an atomic bomb went off," said Jim Ault, a Samaritan's Purse volunteer and member of our site management team. "The thing about just the path of destruction and seeing the intensity of this wedge move through an area of such modern construction, concrete buildings, taking them down to the ground, is quieting."
The massive twister was rated EF-5, the same as the tornado that killed 158 in Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011 - almost two years ago to the day. Samaritan's Purse responded to that storm also and is still working in Joplin rebuilding homes for people who lost everything.
Samaritan's Purse responded when Moore was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface, 302 mph, and killed 36 people.
On Sunday, a large tornado also hit Shawnee, leveling several mobile homes, overturning vehicles, and killing at least one.
Samaritan's Purse is helping in Hood County, Texas as well, where tornadoes hit a week ago.
Please pray for the people impacted by the storms. Pray that God will lead us to people that most need our help, and that storm victims will see the love of Christ as we work in Texas and Oklahoma.
© Samaritan's Purse, 2013. Used with permission.www.samaritanspurse.org