By Patrick B. McGuigan | CapitolBeatOK
OKLAHOMA CITY — Early Tuesday morning, rescuers in Moore, Okla., revised the death count from Monday’s massive storm downward, from 51 to 24.
That was the best news since the devastating F-4 (perhaps F-5) storm struck Monday afternoon. However, that lower number seems likely to rise as recovery operations continue throughout the coming days.
Rescuers throughout devastated residential areas anticipated finding and identifying people who died in the storm. At the same time, in-place storm shelters are more common than ever in Oklahoma City, meaning some who would have died in past decades survived this historic storm.
Oklahoma City’s southeast water treatment facility was crippled by the tornado just before it lifted back into the sky. In a news release sent to CapitolBeatOK, city water treatment officials said rain and lightning overnight slowed progress in restoring power at the Draper Water Treatment Plant.
As a result of the plant’s disabilities, water pressure is low throughout Oklahoma City, particularly in the downtown area, on and near the University of Oklahoma Health Science campus and at the state Capitol. Customers of the city water system were asked to avoid using sprinklers on Tuesday and delay use of washing machines
Tuesday morning, officials were optimistic the water supply would be restored by drive time Tuesday afternoon and evening.
The Oklahoma Blood Institute requested blood donations Tuesday morning, after officials said an increased supply was needed to fill gaps that emerged quickly after dozens of injured adults and children were taken to regional hospitals after the storm.
Donations system were quickly put in place by the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. A wide range of charitable organizations – including the Southern Baptists’ Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, 3800 N May, Oklahoma City, OK 73112 – was fully operational. Online gifts could go to www.bgco.org.
The Chabad Jewish Center had begun to provide direct shelter and aid to elderly and families among the thousands of people displaced by the storm.
Many charitable groups were asking for direct financial contributions designated to Oklahoma City, as the most efficient way to assist recovery efforts. Others were accepting in-kind gifts at drop-off points all over the metro area, including the News9 television station and the Santa Fe Family Life Center, each in north Oklahoma City.
Another site encouraging in-kind contributions was Windsor Hills Baptist Church in west Oklahoma City. Pastor Tom Vineyard was providing direct help to his colleague, the Rev. Sven Larson of Moore Baptist Temple. Larson said a girl who rides the Sunday church bus was missing. Otherwise, church members appear to have survived the devastation, although many lost their homes and everything they own.
Vineyard told CapitolBeatOK his church would collect “food, bottled water, flashlights, batteries, diapers, and baby wipes” for Pastor Larson’s efforts. Financial gifts, he said, could be designated for “Moore Tornado Victims.”
One of the destroyed homes in Moore belongs to Saad Mohammed, a prominent member of the Oklahoma Muslim community. Adam Soltani, Mohammed’s colleague with the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the group would coordinate with state and local disaster officials to support recovery.
The Tulsa Community Foundation (TCF) established a major relief program aimed at assisting both Moore and Shawnee (site of major storms on Sunday). Expressing thanks for a lead gift of $100,000 from the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), Phil Laken of the community foundation said, “I only wish that we could do more – so much more.”
Officials said their objective would be to provide mid-to-long-term relief in the Moore and Shawnee areas. TCF was accepting contributions for the Moore & Shawnee Tornado Relief Fund at www.TulsaCF.org, or via U.S. mail at 7030 S. Yale, Suite 600, Tulsa, OK 74136.
While the aforementioned charities are among those widely known and respected in the region, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt warned donors and consumers to watch out for “charity fraud.” In a news release to CapitolBeatOK, he said, “We have more than 30 investigators in the field to help Oklahomans avoid scams, fraud and price gouging as communities work to recover and rebuild.”
He encouraged consumers to watch out for repair services and contractors wanting up-front payment for jobs, who pressure for immediate decisions, or who accept only cash payments. Pruitt said his office’s hotline number is a useful tool for consumers: 405-521-2029.
Tuesday, President Obama said the federal government would support Gov. Mary Fallin and the people of Moore “every step of the way.”
Fallin visited the devastated area again Tuesday morning and said the destruction was the worst she’s ever seen. Falin’s office said she would conduct a noon news conference Tuesday and keep Oklahomans informed on recovery issues.
At the Capitol, state Rep. Joe Dorman, D, Rush Springs, said he would push for a special bond issue to promote accelerated construction of storm shelters throughout the Sooner State.
You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan, Oklahoma City bureau chief for the Watchdog.org network, at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.