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June 5, 2013

Volunteers work to rescue photos scattered by the tornadoes

NORMAN — Thousands of photos scattered by recent tornados in central Oklahoma have been recovered and will eventually be scanned into an online database for owners to view and claim.

During the May 19 and 20 tornados in central Oklahoma, pictures were picked up from people’s homes and thrown all over the state, taking memories of life before the twister’s devastation with them.

About 30 volunteers were sent out from the Fort Thunder Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop in Moore on Tuesday to collect some of these photos stuck in the rubble in nearby areas.

“You just have to dig,” said Mackenzie Unale, a volunteer whose team brought back about 20 photos.

Tuesday’s project, organized by a group called Picture Patrol, was focused on getting the photos out of the devastated areas and taking them to Oklahoma School of Photography in Moore, said Angela Madory, Oklahoma public relations coordinator for National Disaster Photo Rescue. At the school they will be cleaned, restored and scanned into an online database.

Thousands of photos have already been sent to the photography school, but it will take time to organize and restore them before people can claim them, Madory said.

“We will have reunification dates where they can come and look at them, but that’s phase two or three,” she said. “We’ve got to get them off the ground first — that’s why it’s so urgent for us to do this now.”

At the photography school the photos are cleaned with used dryer sheets, Madory said.

“Cleaning them you have to be really careful, you have to be really gentle, you don’t want to cause anymore damage,” said Unale, who graduated from the photography school and is helping with the cleaning process. “It’s something that’s hard for us doing it, because we want to save as many of them as we can.”

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