Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Financial, emotional tolls mount as Oklahoma tornado recovery effort begins



MOORE, Okla. — Atop a pile of rubble that had been his home, Tim Wardwell choked back tears, grateful for the strangers who prayed with him to give thanks that he wasn’t among the 24 tornado fatalities.
“I don’t know how I’m here, dude,” Wardwell told Yahoo News.
Wardwell and his wife, Kelsey, had biked back to the house—which had collapsed on him and their two dachshunds—to survey the damage. They managed to recover their family birth certificates, a handful of photos and a few keepsakes for their children.
“The bear still squeaks,” said Kelsey, pointing to a tattered toy.
An upended car rests on what was once a house. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo News)
Reuters reports the Oklahoma Emergency Management office estimates 2,400 homes were damaged or destroyed and about 10,000 people affected. The 200 mph twister cut a path of destruction 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide.
Economic experts fear the storm’s financial toll could top $3 billion. Donations have been coming in from kids with piggy banks to professional athletes. And charity groups said more cash will be needed for the months ahead.
"What this enables us to do is send those funds to the area where they're needed most immediately," Red Cross spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego told Reuters.
The Moore Fire Department announced on Wednesday morning that its search for victims at the hard-hit Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children reportedly died, had ended with no new casualties discovered.
Wednesday will be a big day in the recovery effort. With rescue missions for trapped victims winding down, authorities are allowing more residents back into devastated neighborhoods. Government officials are setting up disaster centers to help thousands of people begin the process of applying for aid.
And Mother Nature is finally cooperating. Sunny skies are forecast for Wednesday before a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms through Saturday.
“Take advantage of today’s good weather,” KFOR-TV meteorologist Emily Sutton told listeners.
On Wednesday morning, displaced residents swapped advice and encouragement in the breakfast room at a Hampton Inn.
Allen Anderson and his wife, JoAnn, had made it back to their demolished home on Tuesday. He said the piles of muddy broken bricks and boards make it difficult to determine what’s what.
“You can’t go through the house like you normally would,” Allen, 63, told Yahoo News.
The Andersons said their longtime insurance company dropped them last year when it decided to quit covering houses in Oklahoma. JoAnn said she breathed a sigh of relief when their new carrier immediately gave them emergency cash and approved the hotel for 31 days.
“We’re going to have to find a house to rent, and we’re going to have to find a car,” she said.

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