Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, released the following statement Tuesday about Oklahoma tornadoes:
“Oklahomans have always inspired the nation with their courage, compassion and resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy and loss. That has already been the case in the few hours since these terrible tornadoes destroyed major parts of our communities, and will be the case as neighbors care for those who have lost everything, including children and family members.
“I spoke with Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano last night about FEMA’s response. We still don’t know the scope of devastation and won’t for some time. But, as the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.
“Our office has been encouraged by the outpouring of support and offers for help from across the country.”
Coburn said there is information on his website about how to help.
Late last night, I blogged something about NBA market sizes. It was past 11 p.m. I had finished what little work I had done on the tornadoes. I didn’t know what else to do.
I’m headed out for some Moore coverage. I’ve done it before, both in 1999 and 2003. In ’99, I was pulled off sports and for more than a week wrote about the devastating tornadoes of May 3. That’s more than I delved into bombing coverage. The May 3 tornadoes affected me more than did the bombing.
I’m not from Moore. I’m from Norman. But I married a Moore girl. Got married in Moore. Went to church in Moore for 15 years. My wife’s brother and sister and their families still live in Moore. I could name more than 100 friends who live in Moore. The May 3 tornadoes were the ultimate gut punch. Until the May 20 tornadoes, which added the horror of hitting two elementary schools.
So I’m headed to Moore, for who knows how long. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll be back in sports. May be a week. Who knows. So I figured I’d suspend the blog. I try to write three times a day during the week. Who knows why? Compulsive behavior, probably. But I like to keep it consistent. If the blog went dark, I’d at least want to let you know.
But then I thought back to a new friend of mine. Jay Badry pastors the Wewoka First Baptist Church. He’s been emailing me for a couple of years. Maybe more, I can’t remember. Anyway, Jay invited me to speak at his Lions Club meeting in Wewoka back in January. So I drove down and had a great time.
And Jay told a story. Said he was in a Dallas hospital, on a vigil of sorts with his sister, who was very ill. Just sitting around the waiting room, he got a tweet alert or text alert or something we send out when I wrote something. A blog post or a new column. I don’t know how all that stuff works, but our technology and marketing people do a great job with it. Jay said he sat there and read something I had written about Russell Westbrook, and for a couple of minutes, he had some respite. Had some relief from the difficult time that his family was facing, all by reading something I had written about the Thunder.
So here’s the deal. The blog won’t go dark. I don’t know who wants to read anything about Wes Lunt or Kendrick Perkins or anything else that today seems so inconsequential. But if someone does, and it helps return a little normalcy to life, I can do it. So I’m headed to Moore, but I’ll be posting back on the blog later in the day. Try to post twice today, thrice tomorrow, and we’ll take it from there.
President Barack Obama spoke this morning in the State Dining Room at the White House about the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma on Monday. He was accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, The president was accompanied by Joe Biden, the vice president, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Richard Serino, the FEMA deputy administrator.
Here is a transcript of his remarks:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. As we all know by now, a series of storms swept across the Plains yesterday, and one of the most destructive tornadoes in history sliced through the towns of Newcastle and Moore, Oklahoma. In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed. Dozens of people lost their lives. Many more were injured. And among the victims were young children, trying to take shelter in the safest place they knew — their school.
So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today.
Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children; with the neighbors, first responders, and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed; and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night.
As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead.
Yesterday, I spoke with Governor Fallin to make it clear to Oklahomans that they would have all the resources that they need at their disposal. Last night, I issued a disaster declaration to expedite those resources, to support the Governor’s team in the immediate response, and to offer direct assistance to folks who have suffered loss. I also just spoke with Mayor Lewis of Moore, Oklahoma, to ensure that he’s getting everything that he needs.
I’ve met with Secretary Napolitano this morning and my Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Lisa Monaco, to underscore that point that Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away. The FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, is on his way to Oklahoma as we speak. FEMA staff was first deployed to Oklahoma’s Emergency Operations Center on Sunday, as the state already was facing down the first wave of deadly tornadoes. Yesterday, FEMA activated Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Texas, Nebraska, and Tennessee to assist in the ongoing search and rescue efforts, and a mobile response unit to boost communications and logistical support.
So the people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes. For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention.
There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.
We don’t yet know the full extent of the damage from this week’s storm. We don’t know both the human and economic losses that may have occurred. We know that severe rumbling of weather, bad weather, through much of the country still continues, and we’re also preparing for a hurricane season that begins next week.
But if there is hope to hold on to, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, it’s the knowledge that the good people there and in Oklahoma are better prepared for this type of storm than most. And what they can be certain of is that Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts to those in need. Because we’re a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We’ve seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; we saw that spirit in Boston and Breezy Point. And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now.
For those of you who want to help, you can go online right now to the American Red Cross, which is already on the ground in Moore. Already we’ve seen the University of Oklahoma announce that it will provide housing for displaced families. We’ve seen local churches and companies open their doors and their wallets. And last night, the people of Joplin dispatched a team to help the people of Moore.
So for all those who’ve been affected, we recognize that you face a long road ahead. In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed, but you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the Almighty and our faith in one another.
So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today. And we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.
Thank you very much.
The projects below are weather permitting:
(Editors note: ODOT Crews are working closely with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to provide assistance and equipment as well as traffic control as needed. Updates will be sent out if conditions change and highway closures are requested)
Oklahoma City Metro
I-35 OPEN through Moore, ramp access to Moore is restricted to essential personnel
All north and southbound lanes of I-35 are OPEN through Moore, but the I-35 ramps to and from Moore are closed to the public. Travel is still discouraged through this area as first responders, utility crews and other crews assisting with search and rescue and clean-up operations are working in the area. Currently no additional highways are closed due to the storms.
Amtrak Heartland Flyer will not be running this morning
The Heartland Flyerdaily train service from Oklahoma City to Ft. Worth will not be running this morning due to the railroad line south of Oklahoma City being closed. Currently the train, which did not make the return trip from Ft. Worth to Oklahoma City last night, is planning to return to Oklahoma City as scheduled this evening.
Closed due to Flooding
- SH-131 closed east of Wardville in Atoka County
- SH-31 closed west of McAlester in Pittsburg County
- SH-63 closed in Haileyville in Pittsburg County
House Speaker John Boehner ordered flags at half-staff at U.S. Capitol in observance of tragic tornado in Moore.
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
924 AM CDT TUE MAY 21 2013
OKLAHOMA OK-MCCLAIN OK-CLEVELAND OK-
924 AM CDT TUE MAY 21 2013
…SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA…MCCLAIN AND
CLEVELAND COUNTIES UNTIL 1000 AM CDT…
AT 920 AM CDT…SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS WERE LOCATED NEAR NEWCASTLE
AND MOORE…MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH. OTHER STORMS WERE DEVELOPING
ACROSS PORTIONS OF SOUTHWEST OKLAHOMA AND WILL LIKELY IMPACT AREAS
ACROSS CENTRAL OKLAHOMA BETWEEN 10 AM AND NOON. THERE IS THE
POTENTIAL FOR THESE STORMS TO BECOME MARGINALLY SEVERE WITH HAIL
TO THE SIZE OF QUARTERS AND STRONG WIND GUSTS AS WELL AS FREQUENT
WIND GUSTS TO 40 MPH…
MINOR FLOODING IN AREAS OF POOR DRAINAGE…
FREQUENT CLOUD TO GROUND LIGHTNING…
MONITOR THE WEATHER SITUATION CLOSELY AND BE ALERT FOR THREATENING
“The tragedy that occurred yesterday in Oklahoma is breathtaking in its scope and heartbreaking in its impact. Even in this nightmare, the people of Oklahoma and my hometown of Moore will rise to the challenge, overcome and rebuild just as they have so often in the past.
“I appreciate the fact that the President reached out to me last night offering his and the First Lady’s prayers and sympathy. He informed me of the FEMA and NORCOM assets and resources that are available and assured me that a disaster declaration would be issued; that was done later in the evening. The President also assured me that if there were any problems or needs to call him directly. It was a generous and gracious gesture, and I know he meant it.
“I also want to thank Speaker of the House John Boehner, who reached out to offer his support and ordered that flags at the Capitol be lowered to half-mast as an expression of sympathy of all Americans for the people of Moore and the surrounding communities. My office has been deluged with expressions of sympathy and offers to help by literally dozens of my fellow House Members on both sides of the aisle. It reminds me that, in times of crisis, Americans of all parties and political points of view come together to help their fellow Americans. I saw it in the Oklahoma City bombing when I was Governor Keating’s Secretary of State and liaison to the federal government. I observed it during the great tornado of 1999, and I see it again today.
“I am very proud of Governor Mary Fallin and our Civil Emergency Director Albert Ashwood, who are leading our state with great skill and compassion in this challenging time. The quality of local leaders like Mayor Glenn Lewis and City Manager Steve Eddy is simply unsurpassed. They led us through the disaster of 1999, and they will do it again today.
“I appreciate the tireless efforts of our first responders from Moore and all the surrounding communities. They have proven their valor and skill in incident after incident, including the Oklahoma City Bombing and the great 1999 tornado that ripped through Moore and the Oklahoma City metro area. They are doing so again in this devastating disaster.
“In the days and weeks ahead, my staff and I, as well as my congressional colleagues from Oklahoma, will be doing everything we can to help those in need, comfort those who have lost family members and assist our local officials in getting the resources needed to recover and rebuild. I am confident we will get the help we need to make it through this tragedy; that is what Americans do for other Americans in tough times and challenging circumstances.
“Americans are the most resilient, most determined and most compassionate people in the world. As they have demonstrated throughout their proud history, the people of Oklahoma and my hometown of Moore have those qualities in spades. We will overcome this challenge, and I know our fellow Oklahomans and Americans will be there to help us every step of the way.”
Obama pledges federal support in remarks at White House.
“For all those who’ve been affected, we recognize you face a long road ahead,” the president said. “In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed. But you will not travel that path alone.”
President urged people to send help through American Red Cross. He said he had talked to Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis. The president spoke Monday night to Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Tom Cole.
Oklahoma congressmen spoke this morning, along with House Republican leaders. House Speaker John Bohener said leaders would work with Obama administration to make sure they have the resources they need.
Reps. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, spoke about the immense challenges ahead for Moore.
Boehner, who seemed to be choking up, spoke about Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, whose district was hit on Tuesday. Cole returned to his home town to help with relief efforts.
Lucas said Cole’s district “faced a storm that’s hard to describe.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, said, “We will help them rebuild and do what is necessary, as Americans always do.”
Remarks are scheduled for 9 a.m. today. Can be seen here.