Trent Gibson, director of student transportation at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, told STN the EF5 tornado that brought devastation to the community of Moore, south of Oklahoma City, last week narrowly missed the school district’s bus facility.
But, Gibson added, communication into and out of the affected area has been and continues to be “a very big problem” because the Moore Public School technology center was damaged. He also said the bus facility was in the general path of the two-mile-wide tornado, which killed 24 people and injured at least another 150. The death toll was initially expected to rise following the May 20 twister, but at least another 100 people were pulled from the rubble alive.
News reports indicated that the tornado touched down in Moore for some 40 minutes. The tornado is considered one of the worst in the nation’s history. The same area was devastated by a similar-strength tornado in 1999.
Two elementary schools were also destroyed, and news outlets reported that nearly half of the fatalities were children from one of the schools. As a result, Gibson said the school district, the third largest in the state, will not finish the current school year so it can begin preparing for next school year.
“Things are progressing along right now, but I would be concerned about what happens in a few weeks when the spotlight moves on to other issues,” Gibson said. “That will be when we would be more able to determine the needs. Basically people are sheltered and fed right now, and they are not thinking much beyond that at this point.”
Gibson spoke with Ron Spitler, Moore’s acting transportation director, who told Gibson he is working on a list of bus drivers who were affected by the tornado. The list keeps changing every day as new status reports come in.
Meanwhile, Moore Public Schools set up an online tornado relief fund, with donations being used for area cleanup and for resupplying teachers and schools with basic classroom learning materials and support. The fund will also provide food, clothing, shelter, after-school care and school-bus services to and from school-related events. Checks may also be made out to: Moore Public Schools Tornado Relief Fund, 1500 SE 4th St., Moore, OK 73160.
The city has also set up a recovery website that and documents the ongoing rebuilding and healing efforts, and provides resources. President Obama toured the area on May 26.
Gibson added that Moore has been “overwhelmed” by the amount of volunteer support that has descended on the city.
Photo credit: Associated Press