By Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, the city’s cheerleader in chief, said he believes about 90 percent of Moore tornado victims will rebuild there.
On May 19 and May 20, when an EF-5 tornado tracked through Newcastle, south Oklahoma City and Moore, 3,937 structures were impacted and 1,248 were destroyed, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Lewis, in office since 1994, said 830 homes were destroyed and 386 were severely damaged by the May 20 tornado.
Lewis said many personnel who work at Tinker Air Force Base live in Moore, which provides them with a great location. Lewis said most people are ready to rebuild and a few properties that are structurally sound are already going up.
“I think a lot of people are planning to rebuild here,” he said.
In Moore, debris removal is going well and officials will meet this morning to assess where they are in the process, Lewis said. In 1999, after the May 3 tornado, the process took 61 days to complete, he said.
A snag could be the soundness of cement slabs, Lewis said. Officials are recommending that they be removed, and if residents take them to the curb, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the city for pick-up costs, he said. Working with FEMA has improved a great deal in comparison to 1999, the mayor said.
On May 3, 1999, 74 tornadoes touched down across Oklahoma in less than 21 hours, according to the National Weather Service. A maximum EF-5 on the Fujita Tornado Scale tracked for nearly an hour and a half along a 38-mile path from Chickasha through south Oklahoma City and the suburbs of Bridge Creek, Newcastle, Moore, Midwest City and Del City.
As the skies cleared, officials counted more than 8,000 homes damaged or destroyed and total property damage of nearly $1.5 billion.
Keller Williams Realtor Glen Cosper, who has been serving clients in the metro area for 18 years, was in business on May 3, 1999. Cosper said that back then, it took six to eight months before building began in earnest. Things like collecting all of the debris takes time, he said.
Cosper said since May 31, his office at SW 122nd and Pennsylvania Avenue has been extremely busy. Victims are getting insurance checks and inventories in the Moore area are disappearing at a rapid rate, Cosper said. Builders are gearing up to build homes as fast as they can.
Cosper also said many victims are planning to rebuild. Initially some who have to rebuild said they plan to leave, but some of them will change their minds when they consider all of their local ties, he said.
According to a map of the storm path and available databases of businesses in the area, an estimated 2,100 businesses are within a one-mile path of the tornado. They include home-based microbusinesses, large health care providers, retailers and construction companies.
The Back to Business incentive was launched by the City of Oklahoma City, the City of Moore, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and the Moore Chamber of Commerce to match requests with resources.
For more information, call 297-8943 any day of the week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
To help individuals, families and businesses, community assistance meetings are being hosted in Moore. Presenters will include FEMA, the Small Business Association, American Red Cross, City of Moore, Moore Chamber of Commerce and others responding to the disaster. The next meeting will be 3 p.m. today at the South Oklahoma City Library, 2201 SW 134th. For more information, call Suzanne McAuley at 366-3223.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said his agency’s commitment to Oklahomans is strong during this devastating time.
“We are continuing to come up with ways to address consumer concerns and provide united support,” Doak said.