By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — As the nation focuses on the hardest hit tornado-affected areas of Oklahoma, smaller communities are still asking for help.
Northeast Cleveland County wasn’t hit by an EF-5 tornado, but it still killed two, injured six and damaged or destroyed more than 200 homes.
“Please don’t let the tragedy in Moore divert attention away from our neighborhood. Thousands live here and were impacted from Sunday night’s twister,” Pecan Valley resident William Ries said. Pecan Valley was one of the residential areas that got hit the worst in the county on Sunday.
Cleveland County commissioners said Pecan Valley has not been forgotten.
“We don’t want those people to feel left out,” County Commissioner Darry Stacy said. “We had a significant event and numerous people lost their homes in eastern Cleveland County. We’re trying to refocus so we can take care of all our citizens in Cleveland County.”
Today, a community cleanup day is being hosted. Persons involved in the community sentencing program will be part of that cleanup effort, and other volunteers are encouraged to help.
Those who would like to join the effort are asked to meet at 8 a.m. at the Absentee Shawnee Resource Center, 1970 158th Ave. NE. Stacy said volunteers also can go out to the resource center at any time to help with the relief effort, as well as deliver donations there.
A community briefing with a question-and-answer session for residents will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Pecan Valley Baptist Church, 18901 Pecan Valley Road in Newalla.
Supplies and donations are still needed in the eastern Cleveland County, as most donations have been directed to Moore. Stacy said they have coordinated with numerous churches, including Journey Church and First Baptist Church, to help with the demand of supplies needed.
“With more chance of severe weather coming, there is a lot of requests for tarps. Homeowners have also requested plastic totes so as they dig through their belongings, they have something to put them in that is waterproof to some extent,” Stacy said.
Ries said they also are in need of bottled water, sunscreen, leather gloves, wheel barrows, manpower to pick up limbs, roofing material that was ripped from homes, chain saws and generators.
A concerned Oklahoma resident, Benjamin Carver, said he has been in contact with the Pecan Valley Junction and said some residents refuse to leave their property although their homes have been destroyed.
Carver said those residents are in need of tents, blankets, sleeping bags, air mattresses and coolers. Gift cards to the local store, Country Boy, or Visa gift cards also would be helpful, he said.
Cleveland County Emergency Manager George Mauldin said shovels and rakes will be needed as residents clean up their properties. Mauldin said Thursday that cleanup has not really begun yet, but all the debris on the roads has been cleared up and power lines have been taken care of.
The only road that remained shut down as of Thursday was Indian Hills Road because of a transmission line that was down, he said.
As residents begin cleanup, they are encouraged to move tree limbs and brush to the road side for collection by Cleveland County crews. Construction debris needs to be kept separate from tree limbs and brush.
Stacy said he has been in contact with FEMA discussing how debris will be removed from the area.
“I also want to emphasize that all residents (affected) need to register with FEMA,” Stacy said. Residents can register by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
For those who would like to donate food but need a place to prepare it, Mauldin said two kitchen facilities in the area are available: the Absentee Shawnee Resource Center and Pecan Valley Baptist Church.
“I would like to tell (residents) we are in this for the long haul and we will be here until we are completely cleaned up and recovered,” Stacy said. “My prayers go to those families that lost their houses and have damaged property. I know it’s difficult, but they’re a very resilient community and we’ll be there to help them through it.”
Several agencies currently helping assist residents with the recovery include:
· The American Red Cross is offering meals and snacks to affected residents at the Absentee Shawnee Tribe Resource, 1970 156th Ave. NE. Also, the Red Cross is assisting those in need of shelter.
· Food and Shelter in Norman is assisting with lodging for those displaced, as well as food and other items. They can be contacted at 366-0200.
· Emmanuel Baptist Church is going door to door with food and drinks. They also planned a barbecue for area residents Tuesday night at the church.
If anyone has any needs, questions or concerns, they can call the Cleveland County Commissioner’s Office at 366-0200.