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May 23, 2013

City manager has been through it all before

MOORE — Huddled in his city’s emergency operations center Monday afternoon, Moore City Manager Steve Eddy watched as a massive tornado prepared to tear through his community.

The EF-5 tornado that was headed north turned east and cut a path across the city’s most populated sections, stripping schools, trees, a hospital, businesses and thousands of vehicles from the red earth.

When the storm finally lifted near Lake Stanley Draper, 24 lives would be lost, $2 billion in property damages incurred.

“You can’t print my thoughts,” Eddy said. “I thought about how it’s going to change people’s lives and what they would do. I thought ‘Why do we have to go through this again?”

Eddy was an assistant when the May 3 tornado hit Moore. He was made city manager four months later. He was an assistant in 1998 when another tornado hit.

“We’ve been through this before. The loss of life is tragic but it could have been much worse,” he said.

On Wednesday, Eddy talked of recovery and the army of volunteers and loaned government employees in his city.

“People here have been so good. We have so many out-of-town police, fire, state and federal agencies here. It’s incredible.”

As he spoke, a column of volunteer high school students armed with rakes, gloves and trash bags crossed the interstate on foot on their way to a cleanup site a few blocks away.

Officials were beginning to shrink the security perimeters Wednesday in order to get property owners access to their homes and businesses.

“We’ve got to get people back to their homes and let them grieve and try to salvage some things. We’ve got to get the cleanup started. It will be a two to three year process. We’re going to get over this and move on.”

Mayor Glenn Lewis has been through just as many storms. He was mayor when the tornado struck in 1999. A jeweler, he rode out the storm with customers and employees in his store’s vault. His store was secure but some of his warehouse investments northeast of his store were destroyed.

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had 200 agents in Moore. “It’s just an army of people here,” he said.

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