In Oklahoma’s tornado alley, some better prepared than others

shelters save lives

The mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, a municipality twice devastated by tornados in the past 15 years, is fixated on garage doors, knowing they are a key to protecting the city from even more damage during this year’s tornado season.

Moore, in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” where twisters frequently hit, will be operating this year under new building codes, arguably some of the most stringent in the nation, to protect people and structures from deadly winds…

“Garage doors are the first to come off during a tornado. Once the garage door comes off, the roof comes off,” Mayor Glenn Lewis said in an interview last week…

In May 2013, twenty-four people were killed and 240 injured when a top-rated tornado devastated Moore, a city of about 55,000 south of Oklahoma City. Some 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children were killed.

It was even worse in 1999 when one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded, with wind speeds of 300 mph, struck Moore, killing 44 and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

“The new building codes are great, but I wish they were approved sooner,” said Lewis, who was mayor when both tornadoes hit.

Moore, Oklahoma City and other cities began operating this year under building codes offering more protection, but inadequate structures and a dearth of shelters persist in large parts of the state.

One hold-up appears to be in the state legislature, where lawmakers have been bickering over funding tornado protection.

One Democratic lawmaker proposed using funds from the state’s franchise tax, a levy suspended in 2011, to pay for tornado and storm shelters for the majority of schools in the state without them. Republican lawmakers, who dominate the legislature, have balked at the proposal, saying they want to eliminate the tax altogether.

There’s the point of it all. Republicans, Tea Party Brown Shirts and Blue Dog Democrats care more about tax cuts and money in their wallets than the lives of school children.

I have nothing but contempt for corrupt human beings who value greed over need. They do not advance society. They care little or nothing for those who stand beside them on this planet. Self-centered, egregious, nothing counts more in their mean little lives than money and personal power.

Fred Phelps’ death celebrated by Oklahoma liquor store

moore-liquor

A liquor store in Moore, Okla., advertised a sale on champagne to coincide with the death of Fred Phelps, the founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church.

The owner of Moore Liquor, Bryan Kerr, posted a sign outside his store Tuesday reading “Fred Phelps 1929-2014, Champagne 10 percent off! Not a coincidence…”

Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are known for their virulent anti-gay sentiment and protesting soldiers’ funerals. Phelps died Thursday after having been excommunicated from the church.

[He was excommunicated in a power struggle – won by a dude who campaigned that Phelps wasn’t loud enough supporting an inferior role for women in marriage and society]

Kerr said he’s gotten positive feedback about his sign, which suggests celebrating Phelps’ death.

“People have really responded positively to it,” he said.

“Champagne is a celebratory drink and so that’s why we gave 10 percent off,” Kerr added. “If they choose to celebrate the passing of a little hate from this world, they can do so and we’re happy to oblige here at Moore Liquor.”

“That kind of hatred and that kind of twisting of biblical principles needs to be exposed and talked about people need to know that’s not how real Christians act,” he said.

As my old acquaintance Willard Uphaus said during his years as a defrocked Methodist preacher – “Ain’t nothing wrong with old-time religion if it’s old-time enough!” He forgave his church’s cowardice, blindness. Eventually they reacquired sufficient courage to reinstate him after decades as a peace activist.

The idjits any progressive activist encounters, fools who think they are the only True Christians in the world are an embarrassment to normal folks who trust their religion to lead them to a life of peace and understanding. Trouble is, gang, it’s time for you to speak up and differentiate yourself from fundamentalist bigots.

Champagne optional.

Monster tornado devastates Moore, Oklahoma


A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School
Click to enlargeAP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

A huge tornado with winds of up to 200 miles per hour tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday, ripping up at least two schools and leaving a wake of tangled wreckage as a dangerous storm system threatened as many as 10 U.S. states.

Television video showed tracts of homes destroyed, cars tossed about and piled atop one another, and at least one building on fire. Rescue workers were pulling third-graders from a severely damaged elementary school in Moore, a KFOR television reporter said from the scene, and aerial video showed first responders sifting through the rubble left behind…

The National Weather Service assigned the twister a preliminary ranking of EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning the second most powerful category of tornado with winds up to 200 mph.

The massive twister struck at the height of tornado season, and more were forecast. On Sunday, tornadoes killed two people and injured 39 in Oklahoma.

The number of deaths continues to climb. I had to stop watching the TV reporting. Firemen at the elementary school say their work is now “search and recovery” – no longer search and rescue.

Witnesses said Monday’s tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the region on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5, meaning it had winds over 200 mph…

The 1999 event ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today’s dollars. Only the devastating Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011 were more costly…

Estimates at the scene from those who experienced that 1999 tornado say the affected area was 2 or 3 times larger today. Probably 30 square miles of nothing left in one piece.

I’d like to offer a special note aside from the immediacy of this disaster. Americans who retain a traditional open heart to people in trouble always offer a helping hand. The modern exception being the cruel, heartless fools, the rightwingers in the various Tea Party cells around the country – and in Congress. You know who I mean. The kind of lowlifes who fought against providing aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy unless it was “balanced” by cutting Social Security and Medicare.

That despicable attempt was thwarted in Congress – eventually – by joint resistance from Democrats and a few traditional Republicans who haven’t forgotten how to be Americans. I’d like to note that Tom Cole is the Congressional Republican who represents the people of Moore, Oklahoma – and he was one of the few who joined with Democrats to send federal aid to survivors of that terrible superstorm.

They ain’t all sonsabitches in Washington, DC.