A year later, tornado-hit city in Oklahoma remembers and rebuilds

Reuters News
Posted: May 20, 2014 4:48 PM

By Heide Brandes

MOORE, Oklahoma (Reuters) - Dedications were made on Tuesday for new buildings rising out of the rubble and tears shed in an Oklahoma city devastated by a tornado that a year ago killed 24 and injured more than 300.

For many in Moore, with a population of about 55,000, the anniversary was a time to show resolve and rebuild stronger so there would be less damage in the event another funnel cloud touches down in a part of the country known as "Tornado Alley."

"While we witnessed destruction and loss of life, we also witnessed strength, courage, resilience, and the heart of Oklahoma," Governor Mary Fallin said at the re-opening of the Moore Medical Center, which was hit dead-on by the March 20, 2013, tornado that packed winds as high as 210 mph.

Lacy Jacobs, who gave birth to a son at the hospital just before the tornado struck, said the re-opening marks a step toward the recovery of town south of Oklahoma City.

"We are rebuilding," she said. "The first year was difficult in the beginning, but we turned out to be stronger than ever."

The tornado destroyed approximately 1,100 homes and caused nearly $2 billion in damage in the town.

Now in Moore, new homes stand side by side with empty lots. In the past few weeks, two new parks have opened along with two rebuilt ones.

The city has put in place new building regulations seen as among the most stringent in the United States and aimed at keeping structures safe in high winds.

Moore has also seen a boom in construction for storm shelters, where demand has outstripped supply.

Also on people's minds was another disaster, memories of a 1999 tornado, one of the strongest ever recorded, that hit Moore with wind speeds of about 300 mph, killing 44.

Moore resident Danni Legg attended a remembrance ceremony for last year's tornado victims, including her son, who was one of seven students killed at Plaza Towers Elementary.

"You come to Moore not for the tornadoes, but for the people," she said.

"We are resilient. After leaving the shelter, we moved back to Moore. We are Moore strong," said Legg.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Gunna Dickson)