The Norman Transcript

May 21, 2013

Thousands jam roadways trying to get home

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — People were running and walking, riding bicycling and careening through ditches on ATVs trying to get into neighborhoods in the Moore area Monday afternoon. History seemed to replay the events that once rocked this area when a tornado swept through the middle of Moore on May 3, 1999.

“I knew it would be just like ’99,” said an elderly man walking northbound on Santa Fe in hopes of getting into his neighborhood.

“Don’t try to go north on Santa Fe, they’ve got it blocked off,” a woman yelled out the window of an SUV covered in vegetative debris.

Interstate 35 was closed to northbound traffic at Indian Hills Road and vehicles were diverted onto other roadways, but those arteries were clogged and one mile north of Indian Hills there was no place to go. Western was closed at 164th Street.

Southmoore students in debris covered vehicles were inching along trying to get home. They talked through open windows as they waited for traffic to move forward.

“It went right behind our school,” one said. “I think it wiped out Warren Theatre.”

Students said they were secured in a safe place when the tornado hit. The theater was badly damaged but Moore Medical Center took the worst hit.

Helen Murray said her son lives in apartment near the area. She was shopping at JC Penny in Moore and had to take cover in the store. When she came out, the hospital was gone.

“They made us go into the coolers,” said a Walmart employee who was inching her way home through the heavy traffic. “There’s debris everywhere.”

She said the tornado missed Walmart but any employees who wanted to leave and go home were allowed to do so.

A plume of black smoke in the sky was a home that was burning. The cause is unknown at this time, but portions of Sunnylane Road were closed because of downed power lines and gas leaks. Sunnylane was closed at 4th Street in Moore, 119th Street in Oklahoma City, guarded by Oklahoma City Police who refused to even let foot traffic into the area.

At 7 p.m. a concerned mother who asked to remain nameless said she had been trying to reach Heritage Trails Elementary School for three hours. She said Moore Public Schools were keeping children safe until parents could pick them up, the problem was finding a route to the school.

Sooner Road and Sunnylane were backed up all the way to Midwest City.

Ronda Hair sat on Sunnylane, sighing to learn the road ahead was closed and she would be detoured again. Her home was on the edge of the 1999 tornado and was just missed. This year, she had already talked to neighbors.

“My house is safe,” Hair said. “It’s only about three blocks from my house where it hit.”

Aaron and Ashley Mullins were also creeping along in the bumper to bumper traffic on Sunnylane.

“My mom and dad’s house got hit,” said Aaron Mullins. “I’m trying to get to my house.”

The couple said they had no idea if their home is still standing. In the back seat, their young boy and family dog rode quietly as if sensing the gravity. For the Mullins, their real treasure was safe in that back seat.

Joy Hampton