From Defeat to Hope: The Story of Rebuilding in Moore

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
July 30, 2013; 4:14 AM
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Image courtesy of N.J. Hometown Heroes.

"It was very ominous and I've honestly never felt so defeated, really personally, in my life," Deidre Ebrey, lifetime resident of Moore, Okla., and Director of Marketing and Economic Development for the city said of the May 20 tornado.

The 1.1-mile-wide EF-5 twister that wreaked havoc more than two months ago left the town almost unrecognizable to its residents.

For 40 minutes, it brought winds as high as 200 miles per hour, an intensity capable of lessening a home to nothing more than a slab of poured concrete.

And that's just what it did. The tornado leveled 1,030 homes and displaced 1,200 households. "It bore down our entire city," Ebery said.

The city of Moore has endured its fair share of natural catastrophes.

After being ravaged by major tornadoes in 2003 and 2010, the emergency response was efficient on May 20. The recovery was almost 'routine,' Ebrey said.

From previous disasters, it was clear where every safe room, cellar and storm shelter was located. People knew not to walk over downed power lines and where to search in rubble, she said.

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But it was a devastating blow to the community. Nineteen neighborhoods in the city limits of Moore were affected and multiple homes in each of those neighborhoods were destroyed.

Previously, the tornadoes that had struck Moore affected smaller, more isolated areas.

"I'm pretty sure we felt like we had been through it, and now we were the ones giving the advice to the Joplins and the Galvestons and all," she said.

The repeated destruction added insult to injury for the town. "Now all of a sudden we were back into 'Now it's us again'...," she said.

However, two months after the tragedy that killed 22 people, including eight children, Ebrey says they are recovering at a rapid pace.

Roughly 70 percent of homeowners in Moore had insurance this time around, making the recovery effort more organized than in the past.

Planning is underway to build reinforced hallways in the school that will replace the crumbled Plaza Towers Elementary.

On Aug. 5, representatives from Greensburg, Kan., a town that committed to rebuilding sustainably after facing similar destruction, will present options to help Moore do the same.

The rebuilding process in Moore bears a stark contrast to that of New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

Though the threat was a different beast meteorologically, both towns were rendered skeletons of their former selves, with no choice but to undergo almost an entire rebuild.

"We are the beneficiaries of a much, much better process," Ebrey said, comparing it to the federal response that occurred for Katrina and Sandy recoveries. "It's dramatically different."

"There's really no impediment to getting back bigger, better, stronger," she said, calling it the best example of true resiliency she's ever seen.

New frames are already standing on many of the properties that had suffered complete destruction.

"I've seen our city come back from really horrific circumstances before and I have felt the energy and the heart of the city so many times...," she said. "And I am amazed at the speed and pace at which things are already happening,"

Should another catastrophe occur elsewhere, the town is sure to return the favor for all the support its received, Ebery said.

"Our sense of paying it forward right now is so strong that our entire city might evacuate if somebody else needs something right now." she said. "They're going to get a lot of love and a lot of assistance from us."

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