Congressman Who Grew Up in Moore, Okla., Scrambles Back to Devastated District
The congressman who represents the town of Moore, Okla., said the EF-4 tornado that tore through his district Monday "is breathtaking in its scope and heartbreaking in its impact."
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who grew up in Moore, quickly left Washington late last night to fly back to his district.
"I appreciate the fact that the president reached out to me last night offering his and the first lady's prayers and sympathy. He informed me of the FEMA and NORCOM assets and resources that are available and assured me that a disaster declaration would be issued; that was done later in the evening," Cole said today. "The president also assured me that if there were any problems or needs to call him directly. It was a generous and gracious gesture, and I know he meant it."
Cole also noted that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ordered flags flown at half-staff and said his office "has been deluged with expressions of sympathy and offers to help by literally dozens of my fellow House Members on both sides of the aisle."
"In the days and weeks ahead, my staff and I, as well as my congressional colleagues from Oklahoma, will be doing everything we can to help those in need, comfort those who have lost family members and assist our local officials in getting the resources needed to recover and rebuild. I am confident we will get the help we need to make it through this tragedy; that is what Americans do for other Americans in tough times and challenging circumstances," he said.
"Americans are the most resilient, most determined and most compassionate people in the world."
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), whose district is just to the north of Moore, said he's helping get aid coordinated in D.C.
Lankford was in Shawnee, Okla., surveying damage from a Sunday tornado before flying back to Washington on Monday morning. The Moore tornado hit later in the day.
"Between our churches and the National Guard and our state and our emergency management folks which are terrific in our state, we're well trained and prepared to do it. But anything that's this large and this catastrophic, there's no real preparation that can get you there," he told Bloomberg.
Lankford clarified on MSNBC that there was ample warning about the storm. "People that were watching and attentive had that opportunity. But you've got to understand, a typical tornado that comes through, and E.F.-1, E.F.-2, or E.F.-3, may take off a roof, may take off a couple of walls, blow out some glass. And so people hide in place. They have a shelter inside their home. That may not be a physical concrete shelter, but that's a normal tornado," he said.
"This was not a normal tornado that happened on Sunday through Shawnee, and then not a normal tornado that happened by far coming through Moore as well. And so this is not a -- a typical situation. Even though people had warning, they went to their normal shelter locations, but it wasn't enough."
More were spared from Sunday's tornado because of where it hit, Lankford said.
"It did a tremendous amount of damage, but it was in a very rural area. So the homes that it hit were obliterated, but it hit very few homes because it was in a very rural area. And we even said Monday morning, 'This could have been much worse if this would have been in a more urban-populated area, suburban area.' And then by the time I got here on Monday from the flight, that was already hitting the ground, then, there in Moore and we had it all over again."