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May 24th, 2013

I haven't posted in more than three years. (I've lurked quite a bit, though)

But I really wanted to share this unbelievable footage. Unedited, real-time video of the devastating F5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma on Monday afternoon.

This is about 25 minutes south of where I live (one of Sunday's tornadoes landed 2.5 blocks from where I was. I actually stood and watched the clouds rotating, something I've never seen in more than 20 years in this state.

TEN minutes.

That's all the time it took from touching down on the ground to reach its full power and size. At its largest, it was close to two miles wide and had winds in excess of 200 miles an hour.

Also, you need to realize that this storm did NOT EXIST half an hour before this video was shot. There wasn't even a CLOUD.

For all the power there was and all the damage that was done, consider this:

There were at least 13,000 people in the path of this deadly storm. (I don't recall the actual estimate - it might have been as high as 17,000) ... Only 24 died.

I doubt an airport could handle 13,000 pieces of luggage within 45 minutes and only misplace 24 items.

For comparison, the 2011 Joplin, Missouri F5 tornado (that hit at almost the exact same time of day, and was also on a Monday in late May) was on the ground only 5 more miles than the Moore tornado (22 vs 17) - and the death toll was more than 150.

Those of you who wonder why anyone would live in Oklahoma? Well, this is NOT normal. In the past 123 years of recording tornadoes there have only been SIXTY-SIX that did any kind of significant damage. (F2 and above) That's only one every two years.

And the really, really bad ones are RARE.

Only one possible F5 occurred between 1999 and last Monday. ("possible" because there were numerous tornadoes in one area over several days and it's hard to know if the damage was cumulative) Before that? The last F5 was '82, or '76, or '60 (methods of measuring damage are somewhat disputed. But in general, you're looking at 15 years between significant life-threatening events.)

If you're questioning storm shelters or safety precautions - understand that a large portion of those who were inside of shelters had to physically HOLD THE DOOR CLOSED with their own bodies against the power of the storm. And at least two specially designed underground shelters had the doors completely ripped off.

F5 tornadoes have the power to rip concrete out of the ground. The don't just tear off roofs and uproot trees - they uproot ROADS and throw vehicles one or two MILES from where they picked them up. The power is awe-inspiring.

So why don't we all flip out when we hear the sirens go off? Well, there were THIRTY-SIX different tornadoes that hit the state on Monday. As a rule, tornadoes are NOT something to worry about, if you take safety precautions and heed warnings and alerts.

Basically, yes, Oklahoma is suffering. But we will recover. We have been shaken. But we are coming together. We are rebuilding. It's what we're known for.

My sister was one of more than 2,000 volunteers who showed up on Wednesday morning to clean the Moore cemetery. If you're wondering why a cemetery was a priority when homes are in ruins - the funerals for those lost in the tornado are beginning today.

It took between 6,000 and 10,000 man-hours to clean up the cemetery. In addition to the large debris you would expect (and some you wouldn't - there's a picture circulating of a piece of wood that has skewered a roadside curb. That's wood driven through six inches of concrete. By the WIND.) everything is littered with tiny pieces.

Have you ever forgot and left a tissue in your pocket while doing the laundry? And after going through the wash and dryer, little bits are scattered over all your clothes? That's what she said it looks like. Only it's bits of tree and tire and asphalt and cloth and roof shingle and photograph, etc, etc, etc.

My family is all safe. Although I don't know anyone personally who died, I know various people who lost their homes and/or someone they loved. I also know of uncountable stories of generosity and service.

Several local universities and hotels have opened up for free housing for those displaced. Restaurants are offering free meals to those affected and those on the rescue/relief effort. The Oklahoma Blood Bank has several WEEKS of appointments for donations. At just one local news station, the line of vehicles bringing donations was so long it took more than SIX HOURS to unload. Doctors are providing free clinics to replace glasses and contacts and prescription meds. Photographers are taking images of recovered items and pets so owners can be reunited. People have traveled from all over the country to offer aid. A West Virginia university baseball team in town for a Big 12 tournament, headed over to Wal-Mart to buy a couple truckloads of bottled water and supplies. (On that note, many local Wal-Marts and Home Depots and such have been SOLD OUT of bottled water and storage tubs and work gloves and such because people purchased the entire stock and took it down to Moore.) Several local churches that were already planning sum mer VBS programs, have extended their hours to allow free childcare for families affected by the tornado. A couple have also added in free lunch and/or dinner. Not only for the children, but for their entire families.

THAT is just some of why we live here.

It is our home.

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