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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

The Storms

The Storms

Extending help after destructive tornadoes

According to the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma averages about 21 tornadoes each May. In 2013, 57 reportedly roared through the state.

The out-of-the-ordinary cluster of storms provoked an extraordinary response from Extension at home and across the nation.

“Just when you think the world may not be a nice place to live, you get to see the good in people,” said Tracey Payton Miller, Cleveland County Extension horticulture specialist.

Miller and two colleagues spent two days pushing cold Gatorade and snacks into survivors’ hands about a week after a massive tornado destroyed homes, businesses and, sadly, lives, in Moore May 20.

Cleveland County Extension also answered calls for information and assistance, passed out 750 coloring books and crayons to children in relief centers, sent out press releases on disaster-related topics, and helped coordinate a lost and found for misplaced animals at the nearby county fairgrounds.

Additionally, the office managed an outpouring of donations such as clothing, money and 4-H project items such as horse blankets and halters from around the state and country.

“Extension can help families prepare for emergencies and think of the ‘what ifs,’” said Cleveland County Extension Director Susan Moffat. “If disaster strikes, our response to the storms in the spring only proves we’re ready and able to do our part to rebuild and restore lives.”

In response to a deadly tornado that tore up parts of El Reno May 31, Canadian County Extension Director Brad Tipton said the office dealt with water wells, water sampling and horticulture inquiries.

“One of the biggest jobs was assisting landowners with trees that were damaged, removing debris and getting that debris collected so it could be ground into mulch,” he said.

Other corners of Extension provided aid, as well. For instance, 4-H’ers made 1,560 Hugs (cooling neck wraps) for survivors and emergency responders. Oklahoma Home and Community Education members crafted 100 pillowcases and donated pillows to relief centers.

Ultimately, James Trapp, associate director of OSU Cooperative Extension, firmly believes the agency has a crucial role to play in the state’s disaster recovery efforts now and in the future.

“Extension isn’t equipped to be a ‘first responder’ in disasters such as tornadoes, fires and ice storms,” he said. “But we are equipped to be the first to provide science-based answers to many questions survivors might face following a disaster and to put that knowledge into action for the good of Oklahomans.”

-LM

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