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Disaster in Oklahoma

Moore, Oklahoma has been completely flattened by a tornado. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, but also a couple of schools and a hospital.

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And here’s a time-lapse video of this monster ripping through the countryside.

What can we do? I mentioned it to Foundation Beyond Belief — go to the “Crisis Response” link and tell them you want to contribute to the relief efforts. If enough of us do that, they’ll set something up to take your godless donations and send them to where they’re most needed. And then send them money!


Zingularity also has a post on the catastrophe.


Foundation Beyond Belief now has a crisis response page. You can make charitable donations there.


The death toll is at 51 and rising, with at least 20 dead children.

Comments

  1. Onamission5 says

    MSN news report as of 10 minutes ago says there are as many as two dozen kids still missing in Plaza Towers elementary rubble. Break my heart.

  2. says

    Aren’t the Oklahoma Senators on record as not wanting Federal disaster aid, having voted against aid after hurricane Sandy?

  3. RFW says

    The photos on the BBC website show entire blocks reduced to little more than foundation slabs. The devastation is very similar to that in the Tohoku region of Japan caused the big tsunami there on March 11, 2011, and the same question comes to mind with regard to both disasters: why are houses so flimsily built in areas subject to these overwhelming natural events? A secondary question is whether there is any construction technique that produces houses able to resist these enormous forces. And of course, there’s the question if it’s worth the extra money involved.

    Certainly in the case of Tornado Alley, where such events (if not so powerful) are fairly frequent, it may be time to say “no more” to flimsy frame construction. In the case of northeast Japan, since such enormous tsunamis only come through every millenium or so, maybe not.

  4. okstop says

    Moore is a tornado-magnet. OKC, to the north, and Norman (home of my grad institution), to the south, get hit a fraction as often as Moore does. I’ve been hearing from friends, family, and colleagues all day, and they’re all fine – knock wood – but there is a lot of destruction. The thing to remember is it’s not because of “flimsy frame” construction – a tornado is a different creature from a tsunami or an earthquake, and even sturdy buildings are often leveled or severely damaged by tornadoes. There’s no feasible way to make a tornado-proof building, and even what measures can be taken to improve resistance to tornadoes would make, say, single-family homes prohibitively expensive.

  5. caecily says

    The Husband’s niece lives in Moore; we’re still waiting/hoping to hear from her.
     
    Do. Not. Like.
    -

  6. timberwoof says

    Ho. Ly. Shit. All those houses … people’s lives ripped up. Just awful.

    And way down the list from that is the thought that many of those people would wish that sort of thing to happen to me because of who I am and what I think.

    But still. Ho. Ly. Shit. Nobody deserves that.

  7. mobius says

    Ouch. The tornado with the highest recorded wind speed started in Moore. The date was May 3, 1999. It was also one of the most destructive tornadoes in terms of dollar property damage. That tornado started in Moore and ended in Tulsa, tearing up buildings all along I-44.

    Now, 14 years later they suffer another big blow (no pun intended).

    Sadly, living with tornadoes is something we have to do in Oklahoma.

  8. mobius says

    @caecily #7

    In 1983 my town was hit by a sizable tornado. I was within 100 yards of it. Scary. Power and phones were out. It took quite a while to finally get the word out that I was OK. What few lines still intact were tied up by the huge demand. That is usually the way it is with disasters like this.

    For now, all we can do is hope for the best. I do hope you hear from her soon to put your fears to rest.

  9. davenash says

    I can’t understand why God would do this… Oklahoma hasn’t legalized gay marriage.

  10. Tapetum, Raddled Harridan says

    My parents have a house that is supposedly the closest thing you can get to tornado-proof (rated to 350 mph winds). Very few contractors could handle the construction (it took a while to locate even one in the area who would work with the designer and creator of the materials), and their single-family dwelling ran the better part of a million dollars. Mind you, it wouldn’t have been a cheap house even with standard construction, but building whole communities this way would just not be currently feasible.

    Best of luck to everyone affected by this – and for the rest of us, it’s nice to donate in the aftermath, but they’ll still be rebuilding a year from now, and it would be good if we could remember them down the road too.

  11. says

    rather than try and make a storm proof house it would make more sense to require every home to have a real storm shelter.i saw a story about a guy who busted thru the slab in a closet and dug down to make a small shelter his family could huddle in.
    i feel lucky we don’t live out on the plains.

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    I wish this wouldn’t be politicized, but it no doubt will. These days, my father makes everything into some sort of right-wing rant. A child dies, go into a tear on abortion. A story about a convience store robbery sends him railing agianst gun control. He see’s a popular actor on TV, he demands to know if they are gay. He cuts his hand doing yard work, he complains about Obamacare when we take him in to sew him up.

    I just got home from work a few minutes ago and he made mentioned of the tornados. “Damn that Bush,” he said in the angry, sarcastic tone he reserves for a political tirade. “According to you liberals, Bush was at fault for Katrina! He must have been behind this, right?!” Of course, since I don’t want to live in a cardboard box, I didn’t say anything.

    It’s like living with Glen Beck. :(

  13. okstop says

    @davidgibson (#15):

    Perversely, it’s harder to build effective storm-shelters in Oklahoma because – especially in the Moore/Norman area – the soil isn’t right. Very few homes have basements, which surprised me when I moved there because I came from an area where lots of homes have basements.

    I long ago formed the opinion that no one should ever live in Oklahoma if they have any choice in the matter. I stayed there for six years for grad school and I resented every second of it. It is a pestilential place. The winters are cold, the summers are VERY hot, the gigantic black buffalo flies are EVERYWHERE and they BITE, and the WIND. NEVER. STOPS. It’s Hell on Earth.

  14. Ragutis says

    NWS Tulsa: “Seeing reports of light tornado debris falling in the Tulsa metro area again this evening, likely from the Moore area.”

    Tulsa is 100 miles from Moore.

    Well, at least Sens. Coburn and Inhofe will be fiscally responsible and not ask for federal relief monies. They’ll just let the Invisible Hand clean everything up and rebuild. Right?

  15. sugarfrosted says

    @5, I don’t think you could really build a tornado proof house, honestly. It’s not a case of the materials being flimsy.

  16. sugarfrosted says

    @5, I don’t think you could really build a tornado proof house, honestly. It’s not a case of the materials being flimsy. You’re severely underestimating the destructive power of tornadoes.

  17. mikeyb says

    If there were a god he/she would have focused his wrath on the two brilliant senators, and left everyone else alone. Predictably they will suspend their anti-FEMA, anti-disaster-relief mantra for totally selfish reasons like Texas. Once again it will illustrate the utter bankrupcy of tea party rhetoric, to anyone who gives a fuck or even bothers to notice this is what is going on, and always goes on. The guvment is stupid and evil except when I need it.

  18. mikeyb says

    Also wonder if John Stossel will rear his ugly head again about the evils of disaster relief, perhaps he’ll do a special – just to show once again the utter thuggery of libertarianism and what a total dick he is, inside and out.

  19. ck says

    The devastation is very similar to that in the Tohoku region of Japan caused the big tsunami there on March 11, 2011, and the same question comes to mind with regard to both disasters: why are houses so flimsily built in areas subject to these overwhelming natural events?

    The only way to build a dwelling that is impervious to tornadoes is to build a bunker-style building. Realistically, the only thing you can really do is trying to make them resist the high winds that accompany a tornado, provide area shelters in case of tornado, and hope the tornado doesn’t rip directly through your house..

    Popular Mechanics has an article on it, if you’re actually interested. The short of it is that it’s very, very difficult to do. You might be able to create a safe room economically enough, but to build anything resembling an entire house that can withstand those forces is not feasible, for the most part.

  20. rq says

    caecily
    Holding thumbs for your family!

    The end of the video, though, was impressive… This giant whirlwind of destruction, and then, suddenly,
    *poof*, it’s gone.

  21. says

    And of course it didn’t take long for the god botherers to blame the lack of god in schools as the cause of all this, see the comment from ignorant fool Darlene Wilson on this photo for instance:
    http://cdn.newsok.biz/gallery/6028703/pictures/2095163

    I can’t even come close to understanding this logic. God lets two dozen kids die because some people they don’t know don’t believe in him and the country does not allow the promotion of religion in schools (in theory)?

    And they worship this guy?

    Very sad. I teared up listening to an NPR report of parents rushing past the reporter trying to get to one of the destroyed schools. Can’t imagine that feeling.

  22. mildlymagnificent says

    Sounds like the right approach to house building is a bit like that in many tropical islands. Build lighterweight structures which are easily rebuilt. Protect people as a separate issue. Though I’d prefer a tornado shelter under every home or _at least_ in every street and school.

  23. Ragutis says

    why are houses so flimsily built in areas subject to these overwhelming natural events?

    As CK said, you can try to resist the wind to an extent, but there’s limits to what can be affordably done. And fine, so you come up with a few tornado/hurricane resistant house designs*, maybe even require them used in all new construction (good luck) but how do you retrofit the millions of old homes in risky areas? And don’t forget that that wind is throwing trees, furniture, cars, billboards, and your neighbor’s house at you. The guy from the Storm Prediction Center that does the damage analysis to determine the final EF rating was in Moore (the SPC is in Norman, OK) and he said he saw a steel tank the size of a mobile home that was thrown 1/2 a mile according to the locals. Not much is going to withstand something like that landing on it. Requiring reinforced shelter spaces in all new construction and community bunker type shelters are probably the only realistic, if far from optimal, solutions. And even then, you know who’ll be screaming about REGULATIONS!!!.

    * Some folks are trying:

    http://www.aboutforeverhome.com/

    http://www.domeofahome.com/

    Hell, Hobbit style houses would be a good solution in many areas perhaps. And geektastic to boot!

  24. carlie says

    I’m shocked to learn that most of the houses there don’t have basements, or at least storm cellars. I grew up near St. Louis and even the cheapest houses had storm cellars. That is frightening indeed. Even when there are community shelters, often there is simply no time to get to one.

  25. Tapetum, Raddled Harridan says

    This is the style of building my parents used: http://www.msgreenbuilt.com/faqs.html – the Forever Homes above seem to be an effort to do something similar on a more economical scale. I’ll note that while I doubt my parents’ home would be unlikely to be torn apart in a tornado, it wouldn’t be terribly safe outside of one of the fully interior rooms. There are enough windows that most of the interior would probably be torn up and trashed, and building a house without that weakness would be effectively building a huge cave, which I doubt would interest very many people.

  26. Tapetum, Raddled Harridan says

    And apparently I can’t write this time of morning. – I doubt my parents home would be torn apart in a tornado, please ignore previous double-negative.

  27. Ragutis says

    I’m shocked to learn that most of the houses there don’t have basements, or at least storm cellars.

    One of the journalists helping with MSNBC’s coverage is from the area and actually covered the 99 May 3rd storm that hit the town. According to her, the red clay there is really unsuitable for basements. It’s difficult to dig and apparently expands and contracts a lot depending on moisture. I did see one guy that had a safe hole roughly phone booth size that 6 people crammed into. Small buryable shelter type things like that are available, but the few to several grand that they cost are likely not something a lot of these people can budget for.

  28. Usernames are smart says

    And of course it didn’t take long for the god botherers to blame the lack of god in schools as the cause of all this, ~. — Jimmy_Blue (#29)

    Sure, makes perfect sense to me: god gives people free will, then kills them when they exercise it, even though s/h/it knew what they were going to do before they did it.

    God is basically a spoiled, insecure, immature, immoral brat with delusions of … godhood.

  29. Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu says

    Fuck. I’d heard about the two elementary schools, but not the death tolls from them.

    As far as building goes, OK and most of Texas have soil (it’s clay) issues that make it next to impossible to build basements. Also, the water table is fairly high, so you have to worry about seepage and flooding if you do manage to get one built. Structurally, there just isn’t much that can stand up to a EF-5 class tornado.

  30. dianne says

    So if it’s not possible to build tornado shelters in this area and it’s not possible to build houses that would resist even moderate tornadoes, maybe living in this area isn’t such a hot idea? Just saying.

  31. mildlymagnificent says

    Given the issues with the soil, then I’d be going for a central box, a strongroom structure – say, holding a bathroom and laundry, so you can run some drinking water to keep as soon as you get in there away from a storm even if you have no time to collect up a survival package, and there’d be enough room for the whole family plus maybe a visitor or two. There’d be cost issues, but they’d be much, much less than trying to make a whole house tornado proof and probably less than a separate storm shelter.

    Then rebuild the house around it afterwards if a tornado does go over. But the whole idea of living in a region like this at all give me the heebie jeebies. I won’t live in the Adelaide Hills because of the fire danger, and I’m not thrilled with cyclones in Queensland either. Risk averse would be my category.

  32. chip says

    carlie @32 -

    You’re right about there not being time to get to a shelter, even if one is available. Apparently the schools had storm shelters, but one of the reports I read about the disaster said that the National Weather Service had warned the town about the tornado 11 minutes before it touched down, and noted that that was actually better than the more usual 8 or 9 minutes. I can’t imagine trying to clear all of the classrooms and get all of the kids down to the shelter in only 11 minutes.

  33. Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu says

    @mildlymagnificent, yeah a central room that is built specifically to withstand 250mph winds, and some level of debris, is likely the best solution. I just have no idea how much that would cost in the states.

  34. ck says

    @dianne,
    Then where should these people live? Hurricane territory? Earthquake territory? Flooding territory? And who is going to pay to relocate them and get them settled elsewhere with a job, etc?

    Unless you want to live on the bedrock of the Canadian shield, there aren’t many places that are immune to the destructive forces of nature, and saying “then maybe they shouldn’t live there” is a positively worthless thing to say.

  35. Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu says

    Some good-ish news, Reuters is reporting that the death toll is currently reduced to 24, and that the 51 likely came from accidental double-counting.

  36. raven says

    So if it’s not possible to build tornado shelters in this area and it’s not possible to build houses that would resist even moderate tornadoes, maybe living in this area isn’t such a hot idea? Just saying.

    In some areas of tornado country, a lot of houses do have a tornado shelter. They build a closet out of concrete in one corner of the house. They only have to last about 10 minutes so everyone crowds in. After a tornado hits, that is the only thing left standing.

    As to why they didn’t do it in Moore, where it was hit by an EF5 in 1998 or so and most construction is new, I don’t know. Maybe they did as the death toll is pretty low considering.

    Yeah, I can’t see why anyone would live in Oklahoma. But the natural disasters are the least of it. They happen everywhere. Here on the coast, in my old house, I could see the San Andreas fault from my living room window and there is a perpetual cycle of wildfires. Fire season in California is all year around these days.

  37. Gregory Greenwood says

    That’s horrible – so many people killed and lives destroyed. It looks like a warzone.

    I suppose it will only be a matter of time before the xians come slithering out of the wordwork en mass to claim that this is the result of their god’s wrath over gay marriage of the fact that the US isn’t (quite) a theocracy yet. They never tire of describing their sky fairy’s combination of poor aim and a sociopathic disregard for human life.

    caecily @ 7;

    I hope your family is safe. I will keep various digits and appendages crossed for you.

  38. says

    I dunno from sociopath, from he’s clearly got no fucking clue about economies. The costs get offset by the affected area getting back on its feet and on a paying basis.

  39. says

    i was sort of glib when i went on about having a shelter and then i saw the news this AM with coffee and a toast in my safe comfy home.even with shelter some folks still came close to being killed.
    rather than go on about a outsider looking in i would suggest you folks read the story in the May 20th New Yorker about empathy,”the baby in the well”.

  40. says

    Ugh.. This is like people that build in flood plains, and wonder why their house gets washed away. Sure, it might be “prohibitive” to build something that would resist the weather, but… maybe that means you need to look at only living there if you can afford it? Otherwise… there has got to be a better solution than just doing the same thing, over and over, and hoping the next one won’t be so bad, right? Bah, who am I kidding. And, yeah, the moron who won’t take federal money to help, unless someone else gets shived to offset it… It would be so much nicer if the world was actually fair, and the idiots that say this kind of crap where the ones that paid to their callous disregard of reality (moron probably still thinks that the “study” on deficits wasn’t flawed).

  41. David Marjanović says

    Donation sent. When I tried a few hours ago, I couldn’t get it to work, but there was no problem now.

    big blow (no pun intended)

    Why does the wind go from north to south in Oklahoma?

    Because Texas sucks and Kansas blows.

    Unless you want to live on the bedrock of the Canadian shield, there aren’t many places that are immune to the destructive forces of nature

    LOL. In North America perhaps.

  42. says

    Spouse is from there. Her parents worry all the time that we’re ‘in earthquake country’. Earthquakes have killed less people in CA than tornados have killed in OK over the last thirty years.

    There are ways to mitigate tornado damage – oblique angles, concrete structures. Yes, you can’t resist something smashing into it, but that’s not where the majority of damage comes from. If you can withstand a 2×4 being hurled at the house, that’s sufficient for the vast majority of the area. And making sure things are properly secured to the ground.

    This is why we have building codes in CA. And why they have lesser ones in OK and TX. I guess.

    Where I live, if a tree falls, no building will withstand it. And I mean none: Which is why we build in wood. As long as we resist the spread of damage, resist fire on the roof, and keep the flare-up debris away from the house, that’s all that’s needed to give it a chance to survive. If we could bolt the house to its footings we would, but that’s not currently feasible: About $100K+ to do that.

    And that’s the kind of houses they have in Moore, except with less cross-structure. So they get scooped up. But tornadoes only damage a tiny piece of land at a time, and the vast majority of structures are usually spared, no matter how flimsy they were.

  43. caecily says

    Good news! Niece and her husband are alive and well, though I have no idea, yet, how their house made out, since they weren’t in it at the time.
     
    Thanks, y’all, for the moral (immoral?) support and good wishes.
    :)
    -

    I long ago formed the opinion that no one should ever live in Oklahoma if they have any choice in the matter.

    Well. No sensible person.
    Which explains OK politics and religious culture.
     
    One guess where most of my family lives….
    -

    Flattening Oklahoma is redundant.

    Over most of it, indeed.
    -

    So if it’s not possible to build tornado shelters in this area and it’s not possible to build houses that would resist even moderate tornadoes, maybe living in this area isn’t such a hot idea? Just saying.

    But humans’ll live in lots of nonsensible areas—the Arctic, over the San Andreas Fault, Bangladesh….
     
    Obviously, we rely heavily on there being enough survivors to form a reasonably-large breeding population.
    -

    but… maybe that means you need to look at only living there if you can afford it?

    Not everyone can afford to leave, between money and emotional attachments to, you know, people who live there. And the majority live there for years without being at Ground Zero of a tornado strike.
    And they rely heavily on <gumby>God to protect His own</gumby> If he doesn’t, then he must be angry, and it’s time to play Find the Scapegoat.
    -

  44. ck says

    David Marjanović wrote:

    LOL. In North America perhaps.

    Okay, fair enough. My knowledge of the geography of South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa is quite lacking. However, there still aren’t many places that aren’t hit with major natural disasters periodically. You would have to avoid all low-lying areas, coastal areas, areas near seismic faults, areas near rivers or other major bodies of water, etc. When you factor in the places that are already completely or mostly uninhabitable (i.e. the oceans, extreme north and south, etc.), that doesn’t leave many areas that are safe from these kinds of disasters, and I’d bet that most of those places are undesirable for other reasons.

  45. okstop says

    @Crissa (#52):

    I’m not sure if you realize it, but your comment comes across as somewhat condescending. People in OK know how to build for the weather; there’s just not very much you can do about tornadoes, even if cost were no object. In any case, the facts are wrong: a tornado, especially in Oklahoma, typically cuts a path many miles long and as much as a mile wide, which does not take into account damage beyond the zone of contact with the ground, which can be caused by hail and heavy rain.

  46. says

    For people asking why the houses in the area don’t have basements/storm cellars, my understanding is that there are problems in the Oklahoma-North Texas-Gulf of Mexico region involving features of the soil and a high water table, that make it prohibitive to dig deep foundations or build basements. This is what I heard growing up in North Texas, and the following article seems to say the same for Oklahoma: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/05/21/185857916/why-oklahomans-dont-like-basements