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May 19, 2014

Lingering scars cut by Moore’s May tornado

MOORE — When the storm came, it wasn’t a surprise. Tornadoes have a habit of ripping through town, and the forecasters had been warning for days that another was going to descend from dark clouds sure to gather in the late afternoon.

The only question was: What horror would this tornado wreak this time? A year later, the answers still scar the Oklahoma City bedroom community of Moore.

In all, 24 people died in the May 20, 2013, storm, among them seven children killed inside a school that didn’t have a shelter. Hundreds were injured. Thousands of homes and other buildings were removed from the map.

The recovery from the tornado, twisting with 210 mph winds as it took 39 minutes to carve its 17-mile-long path of destruction, remains halting.

Neighborhood streets end in dirt roads with piles of rubble and tree roots. There are new homes that have taken the place of those lost, and broken houses that still bear the spray paint markings left after emergency responders searched for any dead inside.

A year later, The Associated Press spent a day in Moore, returning to some of the people and places photographed in the days after the storm hit. Here are some of the stories about their journey to recover from the monster that took their homes and stole so many lives.

Abby Cotten was going to knock off early, but her boss in hospital admissions knew better. When he saw what was in the forecast, and watched the tornado develop on television and plow through Moore, he wouldn’t let her leave. Not until it was safe did he drive the 28-year-old home, to the house where she grew up and still shared with her parents.

“I didn’t even recognize my street at the time,” Cotten said. “I was counting driveways to try and find my house.”

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