On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado tore through metropolitan Oklahoma City, Okla., killing 24 people and destroying thousands of homes, businesses, schools and other structures. The tornado left a path of destruction in Newcastle, far southern Oklahoma City and Moore. But the damage and death toll in Moore were by far the worst. For the second time in just a little over a decade, this suburb of Oklahoma City had become the stunning aftermath of the fury of Mother Nature. In 1999, an EF-5 tornado spun through Moore, killing 36 people. Convoy of Hope’s response to this year’s May 20 tornado was swift and calculated.
Springfield, Mo. – Mon., May 20, 2013 – 2:40 p.m.
Chris Dudley leaned in close to his computer screen showing radar images of thunderstorms in central Oklahoma as the first tornado warnings for an area south of Oklahoma City were being issued. A member of Convoy of Hope’s Disaster Response team, Dudley knew the danger thunderstorms in tornado alley could bring this time of year.
“Has anyone heard from our team headed to Shawnee?” Before anyone answered, Dudley was on the phone with a Convoy of Hope field assessment team who had been dispatched to Shawnee, Okla., earlier in the day to survey damage from twisters that tore through the area the day before.
“Are you guys aware there are tornado warnings south of Oklahoma City?” Dudley asked.
“We’ve been watching it closely,” said Ryan Grabill, disaster response coordinator. “We are close enough to see the system in the sky and are rerouting to try and get behind it.”
Unbeknownst to Grabill and other team members, they were on the cusp of helping lead a full-scale disaster response to help the people of Moore.
I could see the twister coming toward the highway and heading straight for our house. It was the scariest moment of my life.