The Norman Transcript


June 16, 2013

Tweeting through the tornado



Fox does all this from a plastic folding table in the back corner of Moore Covenant Life Assembly’s indoor basketball court. This is the nerve center of the organization — a hectic space lined with donated supplies and tools piled against the echoing concrete walls. There is no cork board; memos and schedules are stuck to the walls with duct tape. Like the organization itself, Serve Moore’s central offices were put together on the fly.

Organizers have divided the tornado-affected area into 10 zones, where relief activities are directed by 10 zone leaders who report back to Serve Moore’s basketball court headquarters. When a zone leader finds a broken gas main or meets a police officer who tells him that a thunderstorm is coming and they need to evacuate, the information is phoned back to the central offices and broadcast from there by phone or by Twitter.

“It’s a dangerous environment,” said Jonathan Hellmuth, one of several Serve Moore coordinators who have been officially deputized by the municipal government. “We’re literally sending people out into ground zero, into the direct path of the tornado.

There’s rubble where there used to be homes. There are boards laying around with nails sticking out of them. There are sharp pieces of metal. There are half-destroyed walls that are ready to collapse.”

Despite this, says Hellmuth, the worst injury a volunteer has suffered so far is stepping on a nail, for which the Red Cross was ready with a tetanus shot.

As well as the heavy work of cleaning streets and carting away debris, Serve Moore volunteers must obtain written permission for homeowners to begin repairing their property.

Volunteers are shuttled to and from the field in four school buses lent by the City of Moore.

Though the number of volunteers has declined from its initial high of 3,000, Hellmuth said the organization is preparing for the years-long task of rebuilding Moore.

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