Oklahoma Remembers: Communities Continue To Rebuild 1 Year After Deadly Tornado

Monday, May 19th 2014, 8:30 am
By: News 9

Several communities continue to rebuild one year after violent tornadoes tore through several Oklahoma counties on May 19, 2013. Those storms touched down in Oklahoma, Lincoln, Creek, Cleveland and Pottawatomie counties, killing two people.

On May 19, 2013, almost 100 buildings in Pottawatomie County were destroyed and more than 100 others were damaged when an EF-4 tornado skirted across Bethel Acres and parts of Shawnee.

5/20/2013 Related Story: 2 Killed In Shawnee Tornado Identified

The people who live in Bethel Acres are still working to rebuild after that tornado. Some here in the Steelman Estates mobile home park are still living with friends as they wait for their new homes to be built.

We checked in with Bill Howard who has lived here for 14 years. He was able to cram nine people into his storm shelter and rode out the storm. The storm took the life of one of his neighbors. It ruined the homes of dozens others.

Over the last year, Howard has replaced the windows and roof of his mobile home. Despite what he's been through, he says he could never imagine moving away. He's most thankful for the storm shelters that have been built in the middle of his street to protect his neighbors from future storms.

5/20/2013 Related Story: Daybreak Brings Heartbreaking Look At Oklahoma Tornado Damage

"I'm real happy that it's available for the people. Not everyone had access to storm shelters, they probably went different places to take cover but it's just a real nice benefit to have an abundance of storm shelters," Howard said.

News 9 storm tracker Alan Broerse remembers chasing both storms. First he was in Carney then headed south on Highway 177, and as soon as he was just north of I-40, he saw the massive EF-4.

Many of the residents in that area credit the early warning with giving them enough time to get out of harm's way.

5/19/2013 Related Story: Deadly Tornadoes Tear Across Central Oklahoma

"This was a little bit bigger storm. The tornado was very, very well formed and destructive. We stayed back a mile from it and watched it go through the Steelman Estates area," said Broerse. "That was really hard. You could see the trailers the tin and debris being pulled into the tornado and the trees, it was very, very emotional to be reporting that at the time."

Broerse says it was about three days later when six News 9 storm trackers were able to come out to this area with supplies for the people here.

A community will come together on Monday to remember survivors, volunteers and workers. A "Celebration of Hope" will happen in Pink at the Triple R Ranch from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will have food, games, face painting for the kids and music.