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 Carrying aid, team survives its own tornado
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10 months ago

Carrying aid, team survives its own tornado

LEESVILLE, La. (AP) - Members of a southwest Louisiana softball team went to a tournament with a trailer loaded with supplies for victims of the May 20 tornado in Moore, Okla., only to find themselves threatened by another tornado.

The Champion Softball team's 11 members and their families had been working in Moore only about 90 minutes on May 31 when they were told to return to their hotel because of threatening weather, The Daily Leader (Http://Bit.Ly/1a11aaq) reported.

"I had never experienced anything like what we saw in Moore," said Hannah Egan, 16. "It broke your heart."

The trip to the Triple Crown Sports World Series in Oklahoma City turned from heartbreak to terror while the girls were getting ready for dinner at their hotel.

"We heard sirens going off and we panicked, not knowing what to do," said Alexis Hagan, 15. "The hotel manager sent everyone to the laundry room in the basement. It was really scary."

They girls from Vernon, Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes were among 250 to 300 people huddled in the laundry room, wrapped in sheets provided by hotel staff.

"We started to hear wind howling, thunder, rain, and the sirens kept going off," said Hagan.

The power went off.

"It was like a scary movie," said Kourtney McKee, 15. "We could hear sounds like trees and cars being thrown."

Egan said the change in air pressure "hurt your ears and made them pop. My 1-year-old niece was with me, and all the babies were crying and screaming."

After nearly four hours, the all clear sounded. The storm had shattered hotel windows; guests had to evacuate to another hotel, which also had no power. The Egans' vehicle was totaled; the trailer used to bring supplies to Moore was smashed; the windows were broken in Hagan's family's vehicle.

Madisen Smith, 16, of Rosepine, told the Beauregard Daily News (http://bit.ly/14uVxb5) that because their hotel was closed, the team decided to leave rather than play in the tournament.

Many girls on the team said the storm changed their outlook on life.

"Never take anything for granted," Egan said. "It can be gone in a split second."

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10 months ago

LSU, OK fans generously give at Super Regional

LSU and Oklahoma fans opened their wallets Friday and Saturday at Alex Box Stadium to support tornado disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma. They gave more than $14,130.

The collection doubled the 2012 Hurricane Isaac fundraising effort at Tiger Stadium and is $5,000 more than the 2011 drive at Alex Box, which was in response to spring tornadoes across the South.

"LSU fans literally had their wallets open this weekend as they stepped up to the gates of Alex Box Stadium," said Bobbi Zaunbrecher, executive director of the American Red Cross in South Louisiana. "The media had let them know our volunteers would there to accept relief donations, and the fans gave generously."

The donations from the Super Regional will help provide for shelter, food, relief supplies and emotional support as residents continue to recover three weeks after devastating tornadoes tore through Oklahoma.

"We appreciate LSU providing the opportunity for the can shake and especially the giving fans for making such a difference," Zaunbrecher said. "Though the Tigers won on the field, we're sending the Sooners home with some Louisiana love."

If you would like to contribute, gifts can be made by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Checks may be made out to American Red Cross and sent to 4655 Sherwood Common Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70816.

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10 months ago

Red Cross to take Oklahoma aid donations at LSU Super Regional

LSU baseball fans headed to Baton Rouge for this weekend's Super Regional will be able to help the Red Cross in its Oklahoma relief efforts. Red Cross volunteers will be stationed outside each gate at Alex Box Stadium to collect money donations from spectators. LSU will take on the University of Oklahoma in this weekend Super Regional series. The first game will be played Friday.

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10 months ago

Abbeville VFW post hosting tornado donation drive

An Abbeville VFW post is helping fellow veterans affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes by conducting a supply drive. VFW Post #4158 is collecting "anything and everything," but members are asking specifically for first aid kits, work gloves, and sleeping bags to send to the the affected area. Drive organizers area also asking donors to write an uplifting note for a veteran and donate it along with their supplies. These letters will be distributed to veterans when the supplies are delivered to Oklahoma.

To donate, you may drop off items at VFW Post #4158, which is located at 102 Jimmy C. Vorhoff Drive in Abbeville. For more information, you may call 319-6147.

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10 months ago

Oklahoma Tornado Breaks Record

The May 31st tornado that raced across central Oklahoma near the town of El Reno has been classified as an EF-5 tornado with winds over 200mph. Mobile radar shows this tornado had peak winds of 296 mph and a width of 2.6 miles. This breaks the old record of 2.5 miles set back in 2004 in Nebraska.

This is the same storm that killed three respected tornado researchers and others in its path. The tornado was on the ground for over 16 miles lasting for nearly 45 minutes. Because of the width, and visibility due to rain, some in the path of the storm may have not recognized it as a tornado.

This was the second EF-5 tornado in Oklahoma this May. Only 14 Oklahoma tornadoes have been confirmed to have F-5 or EF-5 strength since 1905. The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF-0-5) was introduced in 2007.

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10 months ago

Storm chasing critical, profitable and dangerous

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - While most people take shelter when a tornado approaches, a growing throng heads for the prairies, be they scientists hoping to protect the public from a twister's fury or amateurs armed with little more than a smartphone, a digital camera and a desire to sell 15 seconds of video to the nightly news.

But the deaths of three respected researchers near Oklahoma City have renewed questions over whether the risk of dashing off into violent storms in Tornado Alley is too great - regardless of the adrenaline rush.

"I think there will be some who will step back and say: 'Am I really doing something safe here?'" said Michael Armstrong, a meteorologist for KWTV in Oklahoma City. "I think you'll probably have others ... that just feel that invincibility that they've always felt and they'll keep doing what they're doing and basically look at it as though it was an aberration or an outlier."

Longtime storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul and colleague Carl Young were killed Friday when a powerful tornado near El Reno, Okla., turned on them as they were conducting research. The National Weather Center issued a statement saying they are likely the first "storm intercept fatalities" among researchers.

Oklahoma is considered the "mecca of storm chasing," Tim Samaras told National Geographic just last month, and there are often hundreds of storm chasers lining the roads. Seasoned storm trackers provide critical field data that can't be gleaned from high-powered Doppler radar, veteran meteorologists say. But they're increasingly competing with storm-chasing tours, amateur weather enthusiasts inspired by cable TV shows and tornado paparazzi speeding from storm to storm.

Samaras' colleagues said he took numerous safety precautions, spending hours looking at weather models and developing safe escape routes and rendezvous points. All were done in case his crew would have to pull away from a tornado and use well-maintained roads that wouldn't turn into "pancake batter" in rain.

"Storm chasing isn't about what you see on TV. It's about forecasting and safety preparation," said Ben McMillan, a storm chaser from Des Moines, Iowa, who teamed up in 2011 with Samaras and Ed Grubb of Thornton, Colo., for the Discovery Channel show "Storm Chasers"

Samaras also usually drove a three-quarter ton truck with a reinforced lining, Grubb said, but had a smaller truck last week because he was on a three-week research trip focused mostly on lightning.

Many amateur storm chasers are looking to capture heart-pounding video of a massive, dangerous twister and cash in by selling the footage to television stations or documentary filmmakers. Television stations and other news outlets generally pay up to $500 to use certain video, and storm chasers will reach out to several different ones. Sometimes, they're not even after money, but hearing their name read aloud on the air.

Lanny Dean, a 23-year veteran storm chaser from Tulsa, Okla., charges up to $3,500 to give tourists a 10-day tour during the March through June storm season. He said he's seen the industry change dramatically with the rise of TV programs documenting deadly storms.

"There are more and more people out there on the road. Many of them should not be," he said. "We're talking about individuals who are not experienced and who have no clue what they're doing. Friday's event was certainly no exception."

Dean and seven of his tourists found themselves near El Reno last week on the jam-packed roads when the deadly twisters began to drop from the sky.

"I saw a kid standing in the back of a Chevy pickup truck filming this thing as they're driving toward the tornado," Dean said. "I thought, my God, how stupid are these people?"

Friday's storm was particularly treacherous because the rotation was wrapped in rain, made frequent sudden turns and spawned multiple tornadoes. At least 14 people died, including several who were in their vehicles when the tornado hit.

"This storm had everything you could handle at one time," said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman. "This was one of the craziest storms I've ever worked.

"It's just Oklahoma weather at the end of May. We had the perfect blend of ingredients."

Professors at the University of Oklahoma's School of Meteorology strongly discourage their students from storm chasing and rarely bring them into the field for research unless it's part of a well-planned, coordinated project.

"I can tell you that from a university perspective, we do not condone storm chasing at all. It's not something we teach in classes," said Melissa Bird, spokeswoman for OU's College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. "It's dangerous, and students are not considered weather experts."

In the end, meteorologists, like Armstrong, believe storm trackers play an important role in keeping the public safe.

"There are aspects of it where storm chasers and storm trackers are always going to play a vital role in the warning process," Armstrong said. "But it is inherently dangerous to be around these storms."

Both Grubb and McMillian said they would continue chasing storms, despite their colleagues' deaths. Grubb, who started chasing storms in 1974, acknowledged the thrill was part of the attraction.

"It's like a magic show watching the clouds do this," he said.

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10 months ago

Storm took classmates, parents as it swept through

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - One loved unicorns. Another, nicknamed "ladybug," sang country songs. Another dreamed of one day owning a pontoon boat.

When a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., it took with it 24 lives. Seven of them were children at Plaza Towers Elementary school; two were only babies.

These are the victims' stories.

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JaNae Hornsby, 9

One of seven children killed inside the Plaza Towers Elementary School, JaNae loved to draw and sing. She loved being the center of attention, her father said.

JaNae's house, just three blocks from the school, also was destroyed by the tornado. Her father wanted to go back to the property to see if he could find a few of JaNae's things to keep.

"JaNae was the life of the party. If JaNae was there you were having a good time. She liked to sing, be a big sister, be a big cousin. She liked to draw," he said, smiling, as he remembered his little girl.

As family gathered to make funeral arrangements and comfort one another, Hornsby looked behind him into the house.

"If she was here she would just have everybody laughing and she would be in the midst of everything. She loved the spotlight," he said.

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Karrina Vargyas, 4

Karrina was not quite old enough to be at school like her two older siblings. So she was at home huddled in a bathtub with her mother, younger sister and grandmother.

The tornado threw the women and children in different directions. Her parents could not find Karrina that night. It was only later that they learned that searchers had found Karrina's body in the rubble of what had been a neighbor's house.

Her father, Phillip Vargyas, said Karrina "had a smile that would light up the room." And whenever he fells the pain of her loss, her father said he likes to think of Karrina giving him a little hug.

"She was something else," Phillip Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "She wanted to figure skate. That was her dream in life."

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Sydnee Vargyas, 7 months

Just 7 months old, Sydnee had crawled for the first time on Sunday. But she never really got to enjoy her newfound freedom.

Sydnee was huddled in the bathtub of her south Oklahoma City home with her older sister, mother and grandmother as a tornado bore down on them. The strong winds pulled Sydnee out of her mother's grasp.

When the debris stopped swirling, Laurinda Vargyas said she found Sydnee on a driveway.

"She was just laying there helpless. All I could do was sit there and hold her. She was already gone," Laurinda Vargyas told The Oklahoman newspaper. "They say she didn't suffer. So I've got to find peace with that."

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Terri Long, 49

Long, a mother of three, was driving home from her job as a registrar at the Federal Aviation Administration when she stopped at a 7-Eleven store about 2 miles from her home. That's where she died when the tornado hit.

"I have no idea why she stopped there; I'm still trying to figure that out," said her husband of 10 years, Ken Long, his voice cracking with sorrow. But he has a guess: "She was probably trying to get away" from the tornado.

For several hours after the tornado, Long didn't know of his wife's fate - not until her brother called her cellphone, and a police officer answered by saying her purse had been found at the convenience store.

Terri Long may have fared no better had she made it home. Her husband, who was at work at the time of the tornado, said their house was destroyed, too. A couple of days after the tornado, Long still didn't even have any pictures of his wife in his possession. He had only memories.

"She was just a happy person that loved her kids and family, loved Harleys and loved to be outside," Ken Long said.

A funeral was planned Friday for Terri Long. She would have turned 50 on Monday.

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Kyle Davis, 8

He was known to his friends as "The Wall."

It was a tribute to the ferocity Kyle brought to his beloved sport, soccer, and the way other players seemed to bounce off him as they went for the ball, said his grandfather, Marvin Dixon.

Kyle was among six 9-year-olds who died in the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Kyle had taken shelter in the school's gymnasium with dozens of other students.

"He was in the position that the teacher told them to be in -crouched down with their hands over their heads," Dixon said. "The medical examiner said either some big rock or beam or something fell right on the back of his neck. He said he died instantly."

It would take a sizeable force to bring down Kyle's large but playful personality.

"He was a pretty big kid," Dixon said. "Whenever he had the ball, other kids would just bounce off of him. That's why they called him that. ... He was just the kindest, most giving kid you would ever meet. He had a grin from ear to ear."

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Christopher Legg, 9

Christopher's years were defined by courage in the face of daunting illness.

Diagnosed with skin cancer and Osgood-Schlatter disease - an illness which can cause painful inflammation in the knees of young athletes - Christopher nevertheless loved to play sports and "roughhouse and wrestle with his Daddy" and his brother and sister, according to a statement issued by the family.

He was among the children inside Plaza Towers when the tornado hit.

"He is not in pain, but in joy with our Lord," the statement said.

"He was greatly loved by all who knew him," the family said. "He never met a stranger. You were always a friend in his eyes. Just last Sunday, his grandfather remarked that Christopher was going to play center for the University of Oklahoma someday."

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Megan Futrell, 29, and Case Futrell, 3 months.

Futrell had picked up young Case from a babysitter as the storm approached Moore. She eventually took shelter in a nearby convenience store at the suggestion of her husband, according to a relative.

Both died when the EF5 tornado destroyed the building as the two tried to ride out the storm in the store's walk-in freezer.

Futrell was a doting mother, active in the Little League association where another son played, her cousin, Amy Pulliam, told The Oklahoman.

"She was my sister I never had," Pulliam said. "It's hard, it's hard, it's hard. But there's nothing you can do now."

Futrell's husband, Cody, who told his wife to seek shelter inside the store, was overcome with grief, Pulliam said.

"As soon as the tornado went over he just took off running," she said. "When he made it as far as Little River Park he saw there was nothing" left of the store.

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Antonia Candelaria, 9

Antonia loved to sing. She knew the words to most of the songs on the country radio station her family frequently had on and she would sing along, bringing joy to the house.

In an obituary, the family remembered the "gentle and loving spirit" of a girl with a sweet nickname, "ladybug," that complimented those of her two sisters, who are affectionately called "butterfly" and "dragonfly."

The third-grader recently auditioned to sing in a talent show scheduled for the last day of school at Plaza Towers Elementary. The girl died at the school with seven other children, including her best friend and next door neighbor, Emily Conatzer.

"Tonie always danced, not walked, to the beat of her own drum," the family wrote in her obit. "And she banged her drum very well. She would bang that drum so loud that others could not help but to start dancing to her beat as well."

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Emily Conatzer, 9

Emily loved unicorns, Lady Gaga and dreamed of one day traveling to Paris to become a fashion designer.

The third-grader died at Plaza Towers Elementary with seven other children, including her best friend Antonia Candelaria.

Emily "rode up to heaven on a unicorn traveling on a path of love leaving Moore," her family wrote in her obituary.

She was a beautiful princess, her family wrote, with a love for "all things girly."

A mother to a cat named Sabbath that wandered into her family's home one day, Emily was also a gifted dancer who could sing "Time Warp" in its entirety.

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Nicolas McCabe, 9

Nicolas was a vibrant kid who loved the water and one day dreamed of owning his own pontoon boat.

His parents, Scott and Stacey, remembered their son was born just outside the couple's home because he "came so quickly that (they) couldn't even make it to the hospital," according to his obituary.

Nicolas was smart and had an "ornery grin," his parents wrote.

He loved going to the lake, playing with Legos and listening to country music. Nicolas' parents said their son "adored" his family and all the friends he made at Plaza Towers. Emily Conatzer and Sydney Angle were his classmates at school.

"Though his years weren't many, the memories and impressions he left on those he came into contact with is sure to endure forever," his parents wrote.

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Sydney Angle, 9

Sydney had a passion for softball. She had two goals in her sport, win MVP and pitch.

She recently accomplished both - collecting the most valuable title earlier this month and pitching in a tournament last weekend.

"She had a smile that would light up; always had a smile. She was a wonderful young lady," family friend Laura Schneider told television station Fox 6 in Milwaukee. Sydney's parents were originally from Wisconsin.

Sydney's softball coach, Landon McNeill, called the kid "a pickle."

"Sydney was real quirky," McNeill said. "She could be anywhere and have fun doing it."

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Shannon Quick, 40

Quick spent a lot of time watching her sons' baseball games. She loved cooking and was known for putting together a tasty Crock-Pot dinner for her family.

On Monday, she had picked up her 8-year-old Jackson and 13-year-old son Tanner from school early because the family was getting ready to go on a vacation to Virginia.

But an approaching tornado forced her to huddle in the closet of their home near Briarwood Elementary School with her children, mother and their dog, Luke. Quick was killed, and the dog had to be put to sleep because of the injuries.

Jackson was hospitalized with severe leg and pelvic injuries. Tanner escaped the tornado with scrapes and bruises. Her mother, Joy Waldroop, was taken to a hospital with a broken heel and a hole in her right arm.

"I couldn't ask for a better daughter," Waldroop, 61, told The Oklahoman newspaper, from the hospital. "She cared for her family."

Shannon Quick had been married to Mike Quick since 1995.

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Tewauna Robinson, 45

Robinson's daughter, Angeletta Santiago, was planning on moving from St. Louis to the Oklahoma City area to be closer to her mom because she was suffering several health issues.

She planned to leave Tuesday morning.

A day earlier, Robinson called her daughter to tell her that the tornado had touched down and she was going to take cover in her closet. It was around 2:30 p.m. Monday.

The brief conversation ended when Robinson told her daughter, "I love you," and then hung up, news station KSDK of St. Louis reported.

After the storm hit, Santiago frantically tried to get information about her mother, taking to Facebook to see if she could find any piece of helpful information.

Robinson's house was destroyed. It was located near the Plaza Towers Elementary School, which also was ravaged by the storm.

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Hemant Bhonde, 65

Bhonde was a kind man who made friends easily and would do anything to help anybody out.

He took refuge from the storm with his wife, Jerrie. The couple waited inside the shower, clinging to each other as the tornado destroyed the couple's home.

Jerrie Bhonde remembers that suddenly, the couple's bathroom disappeared.

"Walls were hitting me. I was knocked on the floor," she told NBC News from her hospital bed, where she was recovering from her injuries.

The couple's daughter, Geeta, described her father as "a generous, caring man."

"Funny, silly, I mean, give you the shirt off his back, literally. The best guy you'll ever meet," Geeta told the news station.

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Randy Smith, 39

Smith enjoyed riding his motorcycle, playing video games and watching movies with his son, according to his obituary.

He attended U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City and was an electrician, living in Moore.

Survivors include his son, parents, two sisters, a brother and a grandfather.

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Jeany Neely, 38

Neely was always available to those in need.

"Jeany was a great loving caring mother whose first love was her two sons," her obituary said. "She also had a heart for animals and she loved every stray dog she ever met."

Neely was a nurse at Midwest City Nursing Center and had spent most of her career working in the health care industry and was also described as athletic and a person who enjoyed working out.

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Cindy Plumley, 49

Plumley's family was her life.

A licensed nurse, she worked at a veterans center in nearby Norman.

"She enjoyed spending every moment she had with her children and grandchildren," her family wrote in her obituary.

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Deanna Ward, 70.

Ward was described by her daughter, Shelly Irvin, as the "best mom in the world."

She died in Monday's storm in the closet of her home about a block from Plaza Elementary School while holding hands with her son.

Her son survived.

Ward was a retired nurse and was frail, and Irvin told The Oklahoman her son did not have enough time to get their mother into a car and leave the area.

"My brother and I have been through a lot of struggles and she never gave up on us. She was always there," Irvin told the newspaper.

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Rick Jones, 54

Jones was a well-liked postal worker and member of the Oklahoma City Area Local, according to the American Postal Workers Union.

"The devastation suffered by the community is almost too much to bear," Human Relations Director Sue Carney said. "At last count, at least 12 postal employees lost everything."

The homes of nine APWU members were destroyed, and dozens more had significant damage, Carney said.

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10 months ago

Here's ways to make donations to help Oklahoma tornado victims

Here is a list of local donation spots and other donation avenues you can use to help victims of the Oklahoma and north Texas tornadoes.
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Oil and gas company BTI in lafayette will be opening a donation drive through at its regional office, 214 Southpark Road in Lafayette.

The company has a presence in Oklahoma City and many of employees there were affected by this disaster. Donations will be accepted Wednesday through Saturday.

The offices will close Sunday and Monday for Memorial Day and reopen Tuesday.
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H.I.S. Fire and Safety Delcambre is accepting donations for tornado victims.

Drop off non-perishable food items, bottled water, cleaning supplies or money is encouraged.

The company is on Bob Acres Rd, off Hwy 14 in Delcambre.

Volunteers will leave Monday morning to deliver the donations.
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Raising Cane's are mobilizing to deliver aid to victims of north Texas and Oklahoma tornadoes. Raising Cane's is kicking off its campaign by making a $10,000 donation to the Red Cross. In addition, from Wednesday, May 22, through Sunday, May 26, more than 150 participating restaurants nationwide will be collecting cash and credit card donations from customers to provide additional assistance.

"Anyone watching the news these last few days knows that the people of Granbury, Moore and elsewhere are really hurting, so we mobilized our resources to help as much as we possibly could," said Clay Dover, company spokesperson. "We organized a similar effort last year when tornadoes pummeled North Texas, so we have a pretty good system in place that we know works well."
People are asked to visit their nearest Raising Cane's to contribute cash or to make a donation via credit or debit card. No purchase is necessary.

To find a Raising Cane's restaurant nearest you, visit www.raisingcanes.com.
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A donation drop for the Oklahoma tornado victims will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2946 Johnston St., right next to the Magic Wok in the Winwood Shopping Center.====================================================

You can make cash donations by dialing 800- RED-CROSS or texting the word "REDCROSS" to 9-0-9-9-9 to donate $10. They are looking for monetary donations for supplies.
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The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is accepting cash donations. Text FOOD to 32333 to give $10.
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International relief agency Convoy of Hope has deployed services to the Moore, Okla., area. To help their service, text CONVOY to 50555 to donate $10.
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The Salvation Army is taking cellular donations. Text STORM to 80888 to donate $10.
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The Central OK Humane Society and The Samaritans Purse are in need of monetary donations to help assist those in need. They are accepting donations over the phone or by mail.

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10 months ago

Okla. City mayor: Up to 13K homes hit by tornado

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett says 12,000 to 13,000 homes were affected by the tornado that tore through a city suburb.

At least 24 people died when the tornado laid waste to Moore on Monday afternoon.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department says the financial cost of the tornado could exceed $2 billion, because of the size and duration of the storm. The disaster zone stretches more than 17 miles and the tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes.

An aerial view of the site shows whole neighborhoods obliterated, with gouged earth littered with splintered wood and pulverized cars.

The National Weather Service says the tornado was a top-of-the-scale EF5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph - the first EF5 tornado of 2013.

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10 months ago

BBB Urges Donor Caution After Tornadoes

In the wake of the devastating tornadoes that recently ripped through Oklahoma and Texas, Better Business Bureau of Acadiana has issued tips to help donors make smart giving decisions and to avoid scams.

After every natural disaster, Acadiana always offers an outpouring of generosity, and along with this comes the inevitable scams and frauds.

BBB urges donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities that can do the most good for those in need and offers the following tips to help donors decide where to direct donations to assist victims:

· Be cautious when giving online, especially in response to unsolicited spam messages, and emails and social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity's website.

· Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

· Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting disaster victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.

· Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity's website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.

· Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

· In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need - unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.
The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.

Acadiana residents can now have BBB information in the palm of their hand with the official BBB Search app, a convenient, mobile BBB solution available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app can be found at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bbb-search-find-local-businesses/id440014505?mt=8.

Like them on Facebook by clicking here.

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10 months ago

Lafayette Residents Helping Family, Friends in Oklahoma

For some in Acadiana, the tragedy unfolding in Oklahoma is hitting very close to home. Some are waiting for news on family and friends in the disaster zone. But rather than sitting and waiting, they are choosing to act and help in anyway they can.

"It's just mind blowing. It's kind of chilling to see something so terrible happen to a place where I know, and have been there, almost kind of grew up there," said Michelle DesOrmeaux.

Home for DesOrmeaux is Lafayette, but a home away from home is in Oklahoma where her family owns a ranch outside of Moore.

"When we were younger we spent a good bit of my childhood up there for holidays and the summers," said DesOrmeaux. "I have family still living up there, and I guess Oklahoma is just very close to heart."

DesOrmeaux's family is still living outside of Moore and are thankfully safe, but several family friends lost everything. On Saturday, DesOrmeaux will be hosting a clothing and donation drive for the victims of the storm.

"If we all stick together we can always help each other," said DesOrmeaux. "If we come together as one we can do many things and get further."

The donation drive will be held at the Winn-Wood Shopping Center (2946 Johnston Street) in Lafayette Saturday, May 25 from 10 am until 2 pm. They are asking people to donate clothing of all sizes.

(Image: Courtesy Michelle DisOrmeaux.)

(Pictured: The Elk Family, Moore, OK. They lost everything in the tornadoes.)

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10 months ago

KATC in Oklahoma

KATC's Steven Albritton captured these photos as he entered Moore, OK. The tornado devastated the Oklahoma City suburb of 56,000 people. You can expect a report from Steven at 10:00.

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10 months ago

Acadiana Red Cross Volunteers Heading to Oklahoma

Right now, representatives from the Acadiana chapter of the American Red Cross are on their way to Oklahoma City to see how they can help.

One couple is hitting the road eager to re-pay others for the kindness they received when storms have struck here.

"Your heart goes out to these people. You know they've gone through a lot and with the children, it makes it even worse."

For three years, Cynthia Boudreaux and her husband, Bobby, have volunteered with the Red Cross. The retired couple says it feels good to have the time to help those in need.

"The need, it's wherever the need is and we're ready to go," said Cynthia.

The Boudreaux's had only hours to prepare for the Oklahoma trip. They're not sure how long they'll be there, but are willing to stay as long as they can.

"We're proud our volunteers are going to help. Normally, we're on the receiving end with our hurricanes, but now, we are able to go help them," said Community Chapters Executive Tony Credeur.

The disaster relief vehicles travel with as little as possible to get to their destination quickly. Once they arrive, they do have supplies on the ground, but they also try to purchase from local businesses still open to support their economy.

"Local businesses and that need the income to continue to hire the people that have been affected by the storm so they have place to work and income coming in," said Credeur.

This is the first time the Boudreauxs have provided post-tornado relief. They expect an emotional trip, seeing the destruction first hand and trying to comfort the victims.

"They always appreciate whatever you do," said Cynthia Boudreaux.

The Red Cross is not looking for clothing or food donations.

If you would like to help, they are looking for monetary donations for supplies.

You can call 1-800-RED-CROSS or send a $10 donation by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999

Finally, you can also contact the Acadiana Chapter for the American Red Cross at 101 N. Pat Street in Scott, LA 70583


Chris Welty
cwelty@katctv.com

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10 months ago

No new funds needed for Okla. tornado recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) - Top lawmakers and officials say the federal government has plenty of money on hand to pay for recovery efforts in the devastating tornado that struck Oklahoma.

The government has more than $11 billion in its main disaster relief fund. Recovery costs in Moore, Okla., are expected to be a relatively small fraction of that amount. The devastating 2011 tornado that wiped out much of Joplin, Mo., use up about $750 million in federal disaster aid.

White House press secretary Jay Carney and top lawmakers on Capitol Hill all agreed Tuesday that there's no immediate need for additional disaster aid.

Reforms put in place in 2011 gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency a more predictable stream of disaster aid. FEMA also got additional funding from January's Superstorm Sandy relief bill.

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10 months ago

List of charities responding to OK tornadoes

On May 20, 2013, an EF4 tornado tore through Oklahoma City's suburbs, demolishing an elementary school, homes and businesses. The storm resulted in fatalities and the hospitalization of hundreds. There will be both short term and long term recovery needs. But before you contribute to one of the highly-rated charities listed here that are responding, please read Tips For Giving In Times of Crisis.

Also keep in mind:

· As this list grows, be sure to first consider the nature of the charity's work. That is to say, not every charity is responding in the same way to this disaster. Some are providing temporary shelter while others are providing food, water and medical assistance. Other charities are focused on long term rebuilding efforts. And some are simply fundraising on behalf of other charities. Think about what it is you want your donation to accomplish and then make sure you select the charity that is doing that type of work. The links here take you to each charity's ratings page where you can see how we've evaluated their Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency. Also on that page, there is a link to the charity's website where you can learn more specifically about the type of tornado related assistance the charity is providing. And make sure you can find evidence of a response by the charity and not just the charity stating that it is preparing for a response (standing at the ready) in case its help is needed.

· Not all of these charities offer you the option of designating your donation specifically to Oklahoma tornado relief efforts. Some have more open-ended funds that exist to fund the charity's disaster relief work. That means your funds may be put towards the charity's disaster work in other parts of the country or the world. Be sure to get clarity on this point before you donate.

Click here for a list of charities that are responding to the devastation caused by a massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.

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10 months ago

Cleco sends crews to assist OGE in Oklahoma City

PINEVILLE, La.- Cleco is preparing to send a 34-member crew to Oklahoma City today to help Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company (OGE) restore power to customers after yesterday's devastating tornado destroyed its electric system. The crew is expected to arrive in Oklahoma tomorrow.

"After seeing the damage that resulted from this horrific tornado, our crews are leaving with the expectation of not repairing lines for OGE but helping them rebuild their system," said Floyd Pittman, Cleco's mutual assistance coordinator. "Our hearts go out to the families that have experienced loss, and we know of no better way to help them than bringing back power so they can begin to rebuild."

OGE serves more than 801,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas. At this time, approximately 30,000 customers are reporting power outages.
"Over the years, we've enjoyed a close working relationship with OGE," said Pittman. "We are ready to help each other at any time. Because of past hurricanes, we know what it is like to have your electric grid destroyed and customers unable to report outages because their homes are no longer standing. It is a desperate feeling. However, we also know the hope you feel when you see the trucks from other companies arriving to help. We are pleased to offer our assistance to OGE, and we are prepared to stay and work for as long as they need us."

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10 months ago

Thunder's Durant Pledges $1 Million For Tornado Relief

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma City Thunder are giving $1 million for tornado relief, matching a $1 million pledge by star player Kevin Durant.

The Thunder announced Tuesday that they'll give $1 million to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other disaster relief organizations helping after Monday's disaster in suburban Oklahoma City. Earlier in the day, Durant pledged $1 million to the Red Cross from his Durant Family Foundation intended to match other donations and be an incentive for more people to give.

Red Cross' regional CEO Janienne Bella said the organization was thankful for Durant's "generosity."

The Red Cross is accepting $10 pledges from people who text "REDCROSS" to 90999. People can also donate at the organization's website.

On Monday, Durant sent a message to his 4.1 million Twitter followers with Red Cross donation information.

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10 months ago

Facebook reunites tornado victims with their belongings

Tornado victims create a facebook group, so items that were blown away can be returned to the rightful owners. Administrators of the page ask people to post pictures, documents, items found, so they can be identified. It's also serving as a place for volunteers to find out how to help and for family members who have loved ones missing. Already, more than 9,000 people have joined the group.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MAY192013OKTORNADODOCSPICS/

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10 months ago

Crews race to find survivors of Oklahoma twister

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Emergency crews searched the broken remnants of an Oklahoma City suburb Tuesday for survivors of a massive tornado that flattened homes and demolished an elementary school. At least 24 people were killed, including at least nine children, and those numbers were expected to climb.

As the sun rose over the shattered community of Moore, the state medical examiner's office cut the estimated death toll by more than half but warned that the number was likely to climb again.

Spokeswoman Amy Elliott said she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm that struck Monday afternoon. Downed communication lines and problems sharing information with officers exacerbated the problem, she said.

"It was a very eventful night," Elliott said. "I truly expect that they'll find more today."

Authorities initially said as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.

New search-and-rescue teams moved at dawn Tuesday, taking over from the 200 or so emergency responders who worked all night. A helicopter shined a spotlight from above to aid in the search.

Fire Chief Gary Bird said fresh teams would search the whole community at least two more times to ensure that no survivors - or any of the dead - were overlooked. Crews painted an 'X' on each structure to note it had been checked.

"That is to confirm we have done our due diligence for this city, for our citizens," Bird said.

The community of 56,000 people, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, braced for another long, harrowing day.

"As long as we are here ... we are going to hold out hope that we will find survivors," said Trooper Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

More than 200 people had been treated at area hospitals.

Other search-and-rescue teams focused their efforts at Plaza Towers Elementary, where the storm ripped off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal as students and teachers huddled in hallways and bathrooms.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she watched up close late Monday as rescuers tried to find people in the wreckage of the school.

"It was an incredible sight to see how big the debris field was and how much destruction there was," Fallin said. "It would be remarkable for anyone to survive."

Seven of the nine dead children were killed at the school, but several students were pulled alive from under a collapsed wall and other heaps of mangled debris. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain of parents and neighborhood volunteers. Parents carried children in their arms to a triage center in the parking lot. Some students looked dazed, others terrified.

Officials were still trying to account for a handful of children not found at the school who may have gone home early with their parents, Bird said Tuesday.

Many parents of missing schoolchildren initially came to St. Andrews United Methodist Church, which had been set up as a meeting site. But only high school students were brought to the church, causing confusion and frustration among parents of students enrolled at Plaza Towers. They were redirected to a Baptist church several miles away.

"It was very emotional - some people just holding on to each other, crying because they couldn't find a child; some people being angry and expressing it verbally" by shouting at one another, said D.A. Bennett, senior pastor at St. Andrews.

After hearing that the tornado was headed toward another school called Briarwood Elementary, David Wheeler left work and drove 100 mph through blinding rain and gusting wind to find his 8-year-old son, Gabriel. When he got to the school site, "it was like the earth was wiped clean, like the grass was just sheared off," Wheeler said.

Eventually, he found Gabriel, sitting with the teacher who had protected him. His back was cut and bruised and gravel was embedded in his head - but he was alive. As the tornado approached, students at Briarwood were initially sent to the halls, but a third-grade teacher - whom Wheeler identified as Julie Simon - thought it didn't look safe and so ushered the children into a closet, he said.

The teacher shielded Gabriel with her arms and held him down as the tornado collapsed the roof and starting lifting students upward with a pull so strong that it sucked the glasses off their faces, Wheeler said.

"She saved their lives by putting them in a closet and holding their heads down," Wheeler said.

The tornado also grazed a theater, and leveled countless homes. Authorities were still trying to determine the full scope of the damage.

Roofs were torn off houses, exposing metal rods left twisted like pretzels. Cars sat in heaps, crumpled and sprayed with caked-on mud. Insulation and siding was smashed up against the sides of any walls that remained standing. Yards were littered with pieces of wood, nails and pieces of electric poles.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

"Among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew - their school," he said Tuesday.

The town of Moore "needs to get everything it needs right away," he added.

Obama spoke following a meeting with his disaster-response team, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and top White House officials.

The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most powerful type of twister. It estimated that the twister was at least half a mile wide.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., forecast more stormy weather Tuesday in parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, including the Moore area.

In video of the storm, the dark funnel cloud could be seen marching slowly across the green landscape. As it churned through the community, the twister scattered shards of wood, awnings and glass all over the streets.

Monday's tornado loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region with 300 mph winds in May 1999. It was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998.

The 1999 storm damaged 600 homes and about 100 businesses. Two or three schools were also hit, but "the kids were out of school, so there were no concerns," recalled City Manager Steve Eddy.

At the time of Monday's storm, the City Council was meeting. Local leaders watched the twister approaching on television before taking shelter in the bathroom.

"We blew our sirens probably five or six times," Eddy said. "We knew it was going to be significant, and there were are a lot of curse words flying."

Betty Snider, 81, scrambled inside with her son and husband. She put her husband, who recently had a stroke, in a bathroom, but there wasn't room for both of them. So she and her son huddled in a hallway.

"That is the loudest roar I've ever heard in my life," she said.

She said she didn't have time to do anything. She couldn't duck, couldn't cover her ears, couldn't find another place to hide.

Snider lived through the 1999 tornado, but said this was the closest a twister had ever come to her house, which was still standing.

Monday's twister also came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more.

That May 22, 2011, tornado was the deadliest in the United States since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Before Joplin, the deadliest modern tornado was June 1953 in Flint, Mich., when 116 people died.

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10 months ago

Obama pledges urgent aid to Oklahoma town

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama pledged urgent government help for Oklahoma Tuesday in the wake of "one of the most destructive" storms in the nation's history.

"In an instant neighborhoods were destroyed, dozens of people lost their lives, many more were injured," Obama said from the White House State Dining Room. "Among the victims were young children trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew - their school."

The president added that the town of Moore, Okla., "needs to get everything it needs right away."

Obama spoke following a meeting with his disaster response team, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and top White House officials. On Monday, he spoke with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican Rep. Tom Cole, whose home is in the heavily damaged town of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

The president has also declared a major disaster in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate was due in Oklahoma later Tuesday to ensure that federal resources are being properly deployed.

The state medical examiner's office has revised the death toll from the tornado to 24 people, including seven children. Authorities had said initially that as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.

Teams are continuing to search the rubble in Moore, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, after the Monday afternoon's more than half-mile-wide twister.

The Senate, meanwhile, held a moment of silence Tuesday for the victims of the tornadoes.

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10 months ago

Death Toll in Oklahoma Lowered to 24

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - The state medical examiner's office has revised the death toll from a tornado in an Oklahoma City suburb to 24 people, including seven children.

Spokeswoman Amy Elliot said Tuesday morning that she believes some victims were counted twice in the early chaos of the storm. Authorities said initially that as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children.

Teams are continuing to search the rubble in Moore, 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, after the Monday afternoon tornado.

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10 months ago

AP photographer sees kids pulled from Oklahoma school

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - I left the office in Oklahoma City as soon as I saw the tornado warnings on TV. I had photographed about a dozen twisters in the past decade, and knew that if I didn't get in my car before the funnel cloud hit, it would be too late.

By the time I reached Moore, all I could see was destruction. I walked toward a group of people standing by a heaping mound of rubble too big to be a home. A woman told me it had been a school.

I expected chaos as I approached the piles of bricks and twisted metal where Plaza Towers Elementary once stood. Instead, it was calm and orderly as police and firefighters pulled children out one by one from beneath a large chunk of a collapsed wall.

Parents and neighborhood volunteers stood in a line and passed the rescued children from one set of arms to another, carrying them out of harm's way. Adults carried the children through a field littered with shredded pieces of wood, cinder block and insulation to a triage center in a parking lot.

They worked quickly and quietly so rescuers could try to hear voices of children trapped beneath the rubble.

Crews lifted one boy from under the wall and were about to pass him along the human chain, but his dad was there. As the boy called out for him, they were reunited.

In the 30 minutes that I was outside the destroyed school, I photographed about a dozen children pulled from the rubble.

I focused my lens on each one of them. Some looked dazed. Some cried. Others seemed terrified.

But they were alive.

I know that some students were among those who died in the tornado, but for a moment, there was hope in the devastation.

___

AP Photographer Sue Ogrocki has worked in Oklahoma for more than 10 years where she has covered about a dozen tornadoes.

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10 months ago

How You Can Help the Victims of the Oklahoma Tornadoes

Many Acadiana residents are asking how they can help in the wake of the Oklahoma tornadoes. Several local organizations have set up fundraisers or other efforts to assist the victims of the storm.

The Acadiana Red Cross is leaving Lafayette today to go to Oklahoma to provide disaster relieve. If you would like to donate to the Red Cross's efforts in Oklahoma, you may do so by visiting the disaster relief page on their website. Click here for that page.

A Delcambre company is soliciting donations for the victims in Oklahoma. H. I. S. Fire and Safety will be collecting food, clothing, and other items, which will then be delivered to Oklahoma next week. You may drop off your donations at the company's facility at 5300 Bob Acres Road in Delcambre.

The UL Sigma Nu chapter is helping its brothers in Oklahoma by collecting clean-up supplies. The fraternity is looking for donations of heavy-duty gloves, toiletries, shovels, dust masks, contractor-grade trash bags, sunscreen, and boots. You may drop off any of these items to the local Sigma Nu house, located at 107 Glynn Able Drive in Lafayette. You may also ship your donation directly to the Sigma Nu chapter at the University of Central Oklahoma. Their address is as follows:
301 E. Edwards Street
Edmond, OK 73034

BTI Services is opening a donation drive thru to raise supplies for the areas of Oklahoma affected by tornados. BTI has a location in the Oklahoma City, and many of the company's employees were affected by the storm. If you would like to donate, you may drop off supplies at BTI's Lafayette location, which is located at 214 Southpark.

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10 months ago

Missouri city aids tornado-ravaged Okla. town

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Officials in Joplin, Mo., have brought together a team of public safety employees they are sending to tornado-stricken Moore.

Joplin was devastated by a tornado two years ago that killed 158 people and injured hundreds more. On Monday, Joplin organized a team of about a dozen police and firefighters to assist in Moore.

Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr says his community remembers the assistance it received in 2011 and feels an obligation to lend a hand in Moore.

The team from Joplin is to conduct a needs assessment and help determine areas in which Moore needs further assistance.

Joplin will also work to provide other assistance, Rohr said.

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10 months ago

Huge tornado hits Oklahoma City suburb, kills 51

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - A monstrous tornado at least a half-mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds up to 200 mph. At least 51 people were killed, and officials said the death toll was expected to rise. The storm laid waste to scores of buildings in Moore, a community of 41,000 people south of the city. Block after block lay in ruins. Homes were crushed into piles of broken wood. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside. The National Weather Service issued an initial finding that the tornado was an EF-4 on the enhanced Fujita scale, the second most-powerful type of twister. More than 120 people were being treated at hospitals, including about 70 children. Rescuers launched a desperate rescue effort at the school, pulling children from heaps of debris and carrying them to a triage center. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with search-and-rescue operations and activated extra highway patrol officers. Fallin also spoke with President Barack Obama, who offered the nation's help and gave Fallin a direct line to his office. Many land lines to stricken areas were down and cellphone traffic was congested. The storm was so massive that it will take time to establish communications between rescuers and state officials, the governor said. In video of the storm, the dark funnel cloud could be seen marching slowly across the green landscape. As it churned through the community, the twister scattered shards of wood, pieces of insulation, awnings, shingles and glass all over the streets. Volunteers and first responders raced to search the debris for survivors. At Plaza Towers Elementary School, the storm tore off the roof, knocked down walls and turned the playground into a mass of twisted plastic and metal. Children from the school were among the dead, but several students were pulled alive from the rubble. Rescue workers passed the survivors down a human chain to the triage center in the parking lot. James Rushing, who lives across the street from the school, heard reports of the approaching tornado and ran to the school, where his 5-year-old foster son, Aiden, attends classes. Rushing believed he would be safer there. "About two minutes after I got there, the school started coming apart," he said. The students were placed in the restroom. Douglas Sherman drove two blocks from his home to help rescue survivors. "Just having those kids trapped in that school, that really turns the table on a lot of things," he said. Tiffany Thronesberry said she got an alarming call from her mother, Barbara Jarrell, after the tornado. "I got a phone call from her screaming, 'Help! Help! I can't breathe. My house is on top of me!'" Thronesberry said. Thronesberry hurried to her mother's house, where first responders had already pulled her out. Her mother was hospitalized for treatment for cuts and bruises. Search and rescue efforts were to continue throughout the night. Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said downed power lines and open gas lines posed a risk in the aftermath of the system. Monday's powerful tornado loosely followed the path of a killer twister that slammed the region in May 1999. The weather service estimated that the storm that Monday's tornado was at least a half-mile wide. The 1999 storm had winds clocked at 300 mph. Kelsey Angle, a weather service meteorologist in Kansas City, Mo., said it's unusual for two such powerful tornadoes to track roughly the same path. It was the fourth tornado to hit Moore since 1998. A twister also struck in 2003. Monday's devastation in Oklahoma came almost exactly two years after an enormous twister ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., killing 158 people and injuring hundreds more. That May 22, 2011, tornado was the deadliest in the United States since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Before Joplin, the deadliest modern tornado was June 1953 in Flint, Mich., when 116 people died.

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10 months ago

Oklahoma TV station reporting "recovery" effort at elementary school

From KFOR.com: "Search and rescue said there don't appear to be any more survivors at Plaza Towers Elementary. Seven children's bodies were removed from the school, and they believe 20 to 30 more children may be inside, but do not believe there are any more survivors."

Watch their live blog here: http://kfor.com/2013/05/19/weather-tornadoes-on-ground-watches-warnings-across-state/

The state medical examiner's office says 37 people have been killed in Oklahoma, and the death toll is expected to rise.

In addition, officials at two hospitals say they're treating nearly 60 patients, including more than a dozen children, after a massive tornado hit suburban Oklahoma City. Integris Southwest Medical Center spokeswoman Brooke Cayot said 10 of 37 patients being treated at that facility Monday are listed in critical condition. Twelve are in serious and 15 others are listed in fair or good condition. Five of the patients are children, including two who came from the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where an Associated Press photographer saw several children being pulled from the rubble. Cayot could not confirm the children's conditions. Spokesman Scott Coppenbarger says another 20 patients of various ages are being treated at OU Medical Center. He says eight of them are children.

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10 months ago

Massive tornado roars through Oklahoma City

A monstrous tornado as much as a mile wide roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but the storm laid waste to scores of buildings in Moore, south of the city. Block after block of the community lay in ruins, with heaps of debris piled up where homes used to be. Cars and trucks were left crumpled on the roadside. Volunteers and first responders were searching through debris looking for survivors. Television footage showed first-responders picking through rubble and twisted metal. Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said downed power lines and open gas lines posed a risk in the aftermath of the system. The storm seemed to blow neighborhoods apart instantly, scattering shards of wood and pieces of insulation across the scarred landscape. The same suburb was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. That storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.

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10 months ago

Search for survivors begins in Oklahoma City suburb

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - A mix of volunteers and first responders are combing through debris in an Oklahoma City suburb looking for survivors.

The city of Moore, Okla., was hit by a mile-wide tornado on Monday afternoon.

People wearing neon-green vests were joined by residents in the search through rubble. Neighborhoods are flattened and homes blown apart.

Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department says an elementary school took a direct hit from the mile-wide tornado, but did not say which school was hit.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Shards of wood and pieces of insulation were strewn everywhere. Television footage also showed first responders picking through rubble and twisted metal.

Live stream from Oklahoma where KFOR is reporting two schools were hit by tornadoes http://kfor.com/on-air/live-streaming/

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10 months ago

Tornado in Oklahoma City suburb causes destruction

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A mile-wide tornado chewing through the Oklahoma City area has reduced neighborhoods to rubble and left cars and trucks crumpled on the sides of highways.

Television video left piles of debris where homes used to be near Moore, Okla., and vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The suburb of Moore, where Monday's damage was concentrated, was hit hard by a tornado in 1999 that included the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.

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11 months ago

Tornadoes Move through Oklahoma Leveling Homes

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) -- One of several tornadoes that touched down Sunday in Oklahoma turned homes in a trailer park near Oklahoma City into splinters and rubble and sent frightened residents along a 100-mile corridor scurrying for shelter.

The tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa were part of a massive, northeastward-moving storm system that stretched from Texas to Minnesota.

At least four separate tornadoes touched down in central Oklahoma late Sunday afternoon, including the one near the town of Shawnee, 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, that laid waste to much of a mobile home park.

Reports of injuries in that tornado strike couldn't immediately be confirmed, as getting into the area was made difficult by the overturned tractor-trailers that forced the closure of a section of Interstate 40.

A storm spotter told the National Weather Service that the tornado left the earth "scoured" at the mobile home park.

Forecasters had been warning for days that the weekend storm system could produce tornadoes, and emergency responders throughout the region were keeping a close eye on it Sunday night as it moved northeastward. Tornado watches or warnings were in effect through late Sunday in several states.

Dozens of homes were damaged by the other tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma, but emergency officials had no immediate reports of injuries caused by any of them, including the first of the afternoon that hit Edmond, a suburb north of Oklahoma City, before making its way toward Tulsa, 90 miles to the northeast.

"I knew it was coming," said Randy Grau, who huddled with his wife and two young sons in their Edmond home's safe room when the tornado hit. He said he peered out his window as the weather worsened and believed he saw a flock of birds heading down the street.

"Then I realized it was swirling debris. That's when we shut the door of the safe room," said Grau, adding that they remained in the room for 10 minutes.

In Wichita, Kan., a tornado touched down near Mid-Content Airport on the city's southwest side shortly before 4 p.m., knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses but bypassing the most populated areas of Kansas' biggest city.

"At this point, there are very few reports of damage and no reports of fatalities or injuries, and we're very grateful for that," said Sedgwick County Emergency Management Director Randy Duncan.

There were also two reports of tornadoes touching down in Iowa Sunday night, including one near Huxley, about 20 miles north of Des Moines, and one in Grundy County, which is northeast of Des Moines, according to the Des Moines Register. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.

In Oklahoma, aerial television news footage showed homes that appeared to have suffered significant damage northeast of Oklahoma City. Some outbuildings appeared to have been leveled, and some homes' roofs or walls had been knocked down.

"When I first drove into the neighborhood, I didn't see any major damage until I pulled into the front of my house," said Csabe Mathe, of Edmond, who found a part of his neighbor's fence in his swimming pool. "My reaction was: I hope insurance pays for the cleaning."

"I typically have two trash cans, and now I have five in my driveway."

The Storm Prediction Center had been warning about severe weather in the region since Wednesday, and on Friday, it zeroed in on Sunday as the day the storm system would likely pass through.

"They've been calling for this all day," Edmond resident Anita Wright said after riding out the twister in an underground shelter. She and her husband Ed emerged from their hiding place to find uprooted trees, downed limbs and damaged gutters in their home.

In Katie Leathers' backyard, the family's trampoline was tossed through a section of fence and a giant tree uprooted.

"I saw all the trees waving, and that's when I grabbed everyone and got into two closets," Leathers said. "All these trees just snapped."

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