The country is here to help. While the death tolls fluctuate and the ongoing recovery operation toils away, people are not staying put and are already figuring out ways to help Oklahomans directly affected by Monday's tornadoes. From helping Oklahomans reunite with their pets to turning dorms into housing for the newly-homeless, here's how everyone is pitching in to help the town of Moore, Okla.
The University of Oklahoma in Norman has promised to open up its campus to provide housing for families.
The University of Oklahoma is opening up spaces in Housing for the displaced families! Call 405-325-2511— OU Sooners (@UofOklahoma) May 20, 2013
It's unclear how many spaces the university has open, but according to the school's academic calendar, there should be some dorms open. The school's commencement was on May 10-11, and the last final exam was on May 10, meaning that students who aren't in summer school have probably already left campus by now.
President Obama on Monday signed a declaration which designated Oklahoma as a major disaster zone. "The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie," reads the White House release, and getting federal money to those people will be FEMA's job. It sounds like there will be money to cover housing to business reimbursements. "The agency said assistance will include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and funding for programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster," reports The Washington Post's Josh Hicks. Obama stated that the extent and cost of the damage is still being assessed. "The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground -- for them, beside them -- for as long as it takes," Obama said during his press conference today.
This disaster hit a special kind of heartbreak in that many people lost their pets, as animals died. But people also lost their pets, as in the cats and dogs could still be alive but were displaced during the storm. And that's where Reddit steps in. A Redditor has created a subforum where people are posting the pets they've lost and the pets they've found (reading the missing ads might induce tears):
Say what you want about the Internet forums' past transgressions, but this seems like a genuine and thoughtful act.
On Monday night one of the major news narratives was that the tornado had paralyzed roads and made it quite difficult to get into the hardest-hit areas—so much so that emergency crews told people to stay home and not to help because crews needed to be there first. In order to bolster support for those crews, firefighters from all parts of California have been sent to the area, The Los Angeles Times's Robert J. Lopez reported.
There is also a firefighter team coming from a town that knows first-hand how terrible the devastation from tornados can be. They're from Joplin, Mo.—who saw a tornado touch down in 2011 and kill 158 people. The AP reports:
Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr says his community remembers the assistance it received in 2011 and feels an obligation to lend a hand in Moore. The team from Joplin is to conduct a needs assessment and help determine areas in which Moore needs further assistance.
President Obama stressed that those wanting to help should donate to The Red Cross. And as we type, several local units have already left and are on their way to Oklahoma. Currently, the Red Cross says it has Oklahoma four shelters open (though six are listed) for victims, and has set up a website called Safe and Well to help victims tell their families that they're okay. As USA Today points out, The Salvation Army, Operation USA, and Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief are all pledging to help or are already helping with relief efforts ranging from feeding victims to medical care.
Update 12:54 p.m. Eastern: The Red Cross has announced that Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant has donated $1 million to the relief effort.
@kdtrey5 steps forward and gives $1mil matching gift to the ARC for disaster relief, text "REDCROSS" to 90999 for a $10 donation.— Red Cross Oklahoma (@redcrossokc) May 21, 2013