Rebirth

“We are doing really well,” said Shanain Kemp, event coordinator at Orr Family Farm. “It was incredible that day to go into the shelter and walk out 20 minutes later to see the utter devastation. You never really think the storm will actually hit you. But thank God we were able to walk out, and it’s a blessing to have received so much help and love from the community.”

Orr Family Farm suffered extensive damage, some of which is still visible. “If you look closely, you can still see signs of the destruction. We have some large trees with metal still embedded in them,” Kemp said. “Most of the issues we are facing now, however, are cosmetic. Since our busy fall season is over, we will concentrate on things like mending and building fences.”

Typically, Kemp says autumn is their busiest time, and when the tornado hit, they had to scramble to repair as much damage as they could in a short amount of time.

“Fall is our most popular time of year, so all summer, we concentrated on getting things back in shape,” she said. “We had an amazing fall season and even set a record in October. We had so much help from the community that we felt like we needed to give back, so we decided to stay open on Sundays.

“The response was overwhelming,” Kemp said. “It feels so great to have people come up and say thank you
for re-opening. For many, this is a family tradition and a place where
they make wonderful memories. So we have been blessed to get back to
sort of where we were before the storms.”

Community lift During the 39 minutes the tornado was on the ground, it killed 25 people, including seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. At its peak, it was nearly 1.5 miles wide and cut a 17-mile path of destruction.

Entire neighborhoods and
businesses were obliterated. Mark Shuman, owner of the popular
restaurant chain Van’s Pig Stand, lost his Moore location.

“We
are rising up out of the ground,” Shuman said. “We began dirt work in
August on a new location, and in mid-November, we started seeing the
first steel go up. We are building a retail center, and Van’s will be
the anchor. Other businesses looking at the center include a doughnut
shop on the other end and possibly a barber or beauty shop.”

Several
employees from the Moore store have remained with Shuman, working at
his other locations, and he hopes to have other employees return as
well.

“We decided to
rebuild in a new location at 19th [Street] and Tower [Drive], which is
about five blocks east of I-35,” Shuman said. “I am putting in a really
large shelter, sort of swimming pool size, for Van’s employees and
customers and also plan to put in a shelter for the other tenants in the
remaining part of the complex.”

Several
calls come in each day from customers in the Moore area wanting to
place orders, Shuman says, and he hopes to have the new restaurant open
by January or February.

Deidre
Ebrey, director of economic development and marketing for the city,
said businesses and homeowners have made a remarkable recovery.

“Of
the 1,100-plus homes that were completely destroyed, more than 330 have
applied for a building permit,” Ebrey said. “We have issued 420 remodel
permits, and in addition to the ‘build-backs,’ we have issued 126
permits for new single-family homes that were not in the devastated
area. Our retail sales tax revenue, which was down 13 percent right
after the storm, has rebounded with double-digit growth each month since
June.”

Some estimates place the destruction of the storms at more than $2 billion, and Ebrey said the costs are still coming in.

“Debris
clean-up was nearly $15 million. Of that, close to 80 percent was
covered by the federal government; 12.5 percent is covered by the state
of Oklahoma. And the City of Moore incurred $895,000 in overtime.
Equipment costs to the city include damage to city vehicles, street
signs, street lights and outdoor warning sirens, among other things,”
she said.

“We did the
best we could in the situation we were given, and the outpouring of love
and generosity we have seen has truly been amazing.”

Mark Beutler

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