Moore Schools Nearly Sheltered Following 2013 Tornado
MOORE, Oklahoma - Keeping students safe became a priority in Oklahoma after the deadly 2013 Moore tornado. Since then, communities across the state have passed bonds to build storm shelters inside schools.
In Moore, after the tornado destroyed Plaza Towers and Briarwood elementary schools, they were rebuilt to include safe rooms.
Today, 31 of the district's 35 schools are now sheltered.
“They [parents] want that piece of mind to know their kids are safe when they come to school,” said Greg Waggoner, Principal at Wayland Bonds Elementary School.
On May 20, 2013, Moore was in the direct path of an F-5 tornado. Waggoner was a teacher at the school back then and saw the tornado outside the gym door.
“I was standing and looking out towards Newcastle,” Waggoner said. “I actually got to see the tornado forming from wall cloud down to the ground.”
With some students still inside the building, including his own, they sheltered as best they could.
“You could hear the air conditioners on top with the pressure change and the windows and the doors, everything kind of sucked in and then sucked out,” Waggoner said.
The school sustained damage but everyone survived.
“It wasn't for a little while that we knew that two other schools in the district had been hit and then all that emotion comes in,” Waggoner said.
Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary Schools were destroyed. Seven students died.
“That was a tough day,” Waggoner said.
The community quickly pulled together, and a $209 million bond soon passed to shelter all 35 schools in the district.
Last fall, Southmoore High School opened two large FEMA approved shelters that double as a practice facility and a lecture hall.
“We use these almost on a daily basis,” said Danny Reed, Head Principal at Southmoore High School. “It's been great, it served a very important need for our athletes in cheer and pom and also it's a good facility for us to hold meetings and conduct large class assemblies.”
Together, the buildings can hold 3000 students, teachers and staff.
“Obviously we're a community that's very nervous about severe weather and severe weather season so I definitely think it brings a great piece of mind to our parents and students,” Reed said.
Shelters at the final four schools, including Wayland Bonds, are still under construction and should be complete by the end of the school year.