Cleanup, Damage Assessment Continues After Oklahoma Tornado

The storm produced an EF2 tornado, which passed through five different counties, extending nearly 60 miles.

by Tesina Jackson, Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla. / December 13, 2018

(TNS) - Officials are still assessing the damages left in the aftermath of a tornado that hit several properties near the Tenkiller Lake area on Nov. 30.

"The numbers from the preliminary assessments shown roughly 189 structures with major and destroyed damages," said Cherokee County Emergency Manager Mike Underwood. "Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration are in the areas impacted and are assessing the numbers of damaged homes and businesses and this will take one to two days to finish."

The storm produced an EF2 tornado, which passed through five different counties, extending nearly 60 miles.

Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said that when the storm hit, every available deputy responded for a search-and-rescue. Most of the authorities who were on the scene brought their own chainsaws, which many ended up using because of the amount of damage left behind.

Now that the storm has passed, officials have gone from search-and-rescue to clean-up mode.

Underwood said while a dollar amount has not been established for the estimated costs of damages, cleanup with take several months.

"The American Red Cross and area churches have been helping with people in need," he said.

One group that has been assisting is the Southern Baptist Association Disaster Relief, which has been helping remove debris and placing tarps on remaining structures.

"It's our way of showing we love the Lord and helping people in need," said Lonnie Rowan, from the Muskogee SBDR branch. "A lot of people couldn't even get into their homes."

Rowan added that pictures and words couldn't describe the amount of destruction.

"It's hard to believe how much destruction was done, and it's amazing that no one was hurt," he said.

Other organizations such as the American Red Cross and EM, are still conducting surveys to analyze the number of displaced individuals and damages homes throughout Cherokee County.

On Dec. 3, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker declared a state of emergency for the five counties in the tribe's jurisdiction that were impacted by the storm: Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah, Delaware and Muskogee. Tribal officials estimate that at least 822 CN citizens live in the affected area.

Officials are still asking that people who do not live in these areas avoid traveling there, as emergency personnel, power companies, and volunteer disaster organizations are trying to affect repairs.

Cherokee Nation is asking its citizens to call 918-207-3870 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to report damage.

Cherokee citizens should include names, addresses, contact information and a description of the damage.

Those impacted by the storm may also call Cherokee County Emergency Management to report damage at 918-456-2894.

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