By FEMA-4117-DR-OK External Affairs
Just seven days after a Joint Field Office opened in Oklahoma City in response to severe storms and tornadoes from May 18-27, the DR-4117-OK Safety and Logistics teams coordinated the sheltering of nearly 400 FEMA staffers as a second EF-5 tornado in less than two weeks touched down nearby.
“There’s a tornado in the parking lot,” Matt Boyle, Incident Management Assistance Teams, logistics chief, calmly communicated over a hand-held megaphone as FEMA staffers crouched and huddled against an interior wall of the 5,500-square-foot shelter inside the JFO on May 31. Using laptop computers and handheld devices, employees monitored the real-time activity of storm trackers. Videos showed staff where tornadoes were moving–and where they touched down.
The National Weather Service identified one of several twisters that evening as an EF-5 powerhouse measuring 2.6 miles across, making it the widest tornado ever recorded.
Far in advance of May 31, Safety teams had identified an area of the Oklahoma City JFO that would be safest for sheltering during a tornado. They also created a detailed plan to control which departments entered the big shelter through which doors.
As the threatening weather subsided on May 31, Safety and Logistics continued monitoring and updating staff through megaphones. They distributed chairs, bottled water and flashlights. “Meals Ready to Eat” and sheets of plastic were provided for more than one dozen FEMA personnel who spent the night in the field office to avoid heavily flooded roadways and downed power lines. One hundred percent accountability was reported for FEMA staff, including field workers, during and after the storms.
As the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and FEMA continue joint assessments of the damage, the agencies remain focused on recovery from the May 18-27 severe storms and tornadoes. Thus far, more than $5.3 million in state and federal disaster assistance has been approved for homeowners and renters.
Disaster Recovery Centers continue to assist survivors in Carney, Norman, Oklahoma City and Shawnee. FEMA External Affairs has produced a video showing activity in the recovery center in Norman.
As Oklahoma rebuilds, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters reports that needs for donations have turned from food, clothing and household items–many of which are in surplus–to chain saws, generators, building supplies and other materials that can be utilized for reconstruction.
Photo Caption: Severe weather approaches downtown Oklahoma City. Photo by FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino Link to photo on FEMA.gov: http://www.fema.gov/photolibrary/photo_details.do?id=66045