This spring members of the Moore, OK community were once again reminded of the strength of springtime thunderstorms and how quickly, and drastically, these storms can change their lives.
Tornados are not a foreign concept to most residents of Oklahoma, including those living in Moore, Oklahoma.
May 3, 1999
May 8, 2003
May 10, 2010
May 20, 2013
On each of these days a tornado struck the city of Moore. The 1999 and 2013 storms both produced F5 and EF5 rated storms while the 2003 and 2010 storms produced both EF4 ranked storms. With a loss of 36 lives, the 1999 storm provided the suburban area of Oklahoma City with a tremendous emotional hit in addition to the physical damage caused – to the tune of $1 billion in 1999 USD ($1.5 billion at 2013 USD rates).
The May 2013 storm killed twenty-four people, including seven children. The children were attending classes at Plaza Towers elementary. The loss of our nation’s most precious is a heavy loss that should never be forgotten and one that should stand as a constant reminder of the risk children face while under the care of others.
An increasing number of residential homes in Oklahoma are being constructed with storm shelters that are built to withstand the wind strength associated with strong tornados. While the flyingcommguy is not speculating that if these seven children had been home they would have survived, it is important to note that many families who were home and within a storm shelter survived.
Currently only a very limited number of Oklahoma public schools have storm shelters in place to protect staff and students, however this past spring’s storms are waking residents up to the overwhelming benefits of having shelters in place at their childrens schools. Residents have started to show increasingly more interest in pressuring state legislators to provide sufficient funding to install storm shelters in current schools and to require shelters to be installed in future school construction projects.
Shelter Oklahoma Schools, was created earlier this year and has already reached $1 million USD towards funding shelter construction in Oklahoma schools. While $1 million dollars is a exceptionally positive start, Oklahoma government officials put the cost of equiping Oklahoma Schools with shelters are over $2 billion dollars. Sadly, these same officials find the prospect of putting shelters in schools as an unrealistic expectation that residents need to be realistic about.
Alex Weintz, spokesperson for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, states that with over 1,000 schools in Oklahoma “…we think that it would cost probably at least $2 billion to build new storm shelters or safe rooms in each one of those, and that’s a little under a third of the state’s entire budget for a year. It’s not realistic to think that the state would be able to pay for a tornado shelter in each school.” (NPR)
The story of Moore, Oklahoma and the greater state of Oklahoma’s focus on protecting children during tornado season is not one that should be taken lightly. Across this country school districts are using outdated, but the best known safety practices, to protect children at school during severe weather warnings. Most adults remember vividly the safety drills performed, quickly rushing out into the halls, kneeling before the concrete walls with heads in between knees and arms protecting the back of heads.
Parents need to discuss these safety procedures with school leaders and ask them the hard questions regarding updating policies so that this country’s youth can be better protected. Perhaps an emphasis needs to be placed on improving safety areas rather than investing millions on enhanced sports facilities. Better use of available funds from local and state revenues is key, in addition to residents willingness to place child safety as a top priority. Federal grants are available to assist communities in improving storm preparedness, even though asking for federal money may be sacreligious to folks of a certain polical persuasion no amount of assistance should be turned away if it serves to better protect this nation’s children.
The risk loss of life is too great to ignore this funding problem.