Lone Grove_Tuesday's deadly tornado in Lone Grove has claimed a ninth life, but on Thursday city officials said they are confident that no one else is missing or trapped in the storm-ravaged area. They have completed their search of all damaged areas, and formally ended the rescue effort. Officials allowed 7News into one of the hardest hit locations.
Officials say the EF4 tornado was tornado was a half-mile to a full mile wide, and carved out a path of four to five miles through Lone Grove. They estimate that the twister damaged or destroyed as many as 150 homes. "The rebuilding can't start until we can eliminate all the debris - and there's quite a bit of it," said Lone Grove City Manager Marianne Elfert. "We have to hold on that process until FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) finishes its evaluation. Once they do that, by the end of the weekend we'll at least know how to proceed, and what funds will be utilized to do that work."
Lone Grove victims are getting a lot of help from disaster relief agencies - hot meals, clothes, toiletries - and, while the bare essentials are helping them get through this tough time, they're going to need more help with their homes. They are hoping the government will come to the rescue.
Cars were turned upside-down, a pickup was split in half, and where mobile homes once sat, shredded metal, wood, and memories remain. "It's hard - it's real hard," said Cathey McCutchen. "My dad died when I was 16. I had one picture of him, and, no, I didn't find it - and I've really, really looked for it. Things like that are not replaceable." She and her family's lives were spared because they got out of their mobile home before the twister ripped it apart. "Came back to this - came back to nothing."
Disaster workers distributed water, clothing and hot meals to the victims. "Down here in southern Oklahoma, when things go awry, or something's bad, people are going to come together - and that's exactly what has happened here," said Dewayne Davis with Lone Grove First Baptist Church. "We did 1,200 meals for lunch, and we'll send them out with the Red Cross, and Red Cross will be delivering the food," said Dan Fuller with Southern Baptist Disaster.
Some came to the First Baptist Church to eat since they didn't have food the first day after the tornado hit. In a lot of cases they had nothing to wear. Local churches say the outpouring of support from community members and strangers from miles away is great. They say they no longer are taking clothing donations, and several buildings already are full. "We think we have enough clothes, we can probably re-clothe the entire city."
Officials say most of the storm victims are not staying in shelters, and fewer than 50 people stayed in an Ardmore shelter Wednesday night. Lone Grove is a fairly small town, and folks there often have a lot of family and friends to settle in with until they can get back on their feet.
Churches in Lone Grove say they believe they will see a greater need from storm victims over the next couple of weeks, but right now are stockpiling donations because the demand has been slow.