Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

May 22, 2013

Okla. residents come home to pick up the pieces

MOORE, Okla. (AP) — With her son holding her elbow, Colleen Arvin walked up her driveway to what was left of her house for 40 years.

It was the 83-year-old grandmother's first time back at her home since a monstrous and deadly tornado ravaged her neighborhood in suburban Oklahoma City. Part of the roof was sitting in the front yard, and the siding from the front of the house was gone. As her son, Jeff, and her grandsons picked through what was left of her belongings, Arvin found some dark humor in the situation.

"Oh thank God," she said, laughing, when a grandson brought over her keys. "We can get in the house."

Monday's tornado killed at least 24 people, destroyed countless homes and reduced one elementary school almost entirely to rubble, killing seven children inside.

As state and federal officials work to set up disaster recovery centers to provide aid and assistance, Arvin and other residents of Moore are beginning the deliberate process of assessing what's left of their homes and possessions and what comes next.

Officials are still trying to make sense of what will be needed in the coming days, weeks and months: Will homes be rebuilt or torn down? Where will the children go to school? How much will it all cost?

Helmeted rescue workers have been searching tirelessly for survivors and victims, and officials said Tuesday they planned to keep going — sometimes double- and triple-checking home sites. Officials were not certain of how many homes were destroyed or how many families had been displaced. Emergency crews had trouble navigating devastated neighborhoods because there were no street signs left. Some rescuers used smartphones or GPS devices to guide them through areas with no recognizable landmarks.

Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird said Tuesday he was confident there are no more bodies or survivors in the rubble. Every damaged home had been searched at least once, Bird said, but his goal was to conduct three searches of each building just to be certain there were no more bodies or survivors.

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