Oklahoma Airman Experiences Moore Tornado’s Wrath
By Army Sgt. Daniel Nelson Jr.
145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MOORE, Okla., May 23, 2013 The Midwest region is certainly no stranger to inclement weather, having heavy snow and ice in the winter months and severe thunderstorms and deadly tornados during the spring and summer.
Air Force Senior Airman Brandon Tucker, a crew communication specialist with the 185th Air Refueling Squadron, steps through a space where a window once was at his home in Moore, Okla., May 22, 2013. Moore was heavily damaged following a deadly tornado that passed through central Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Nelson Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
However, the recent string of storms that have passed through the region have left the Oklahoma communities of Newcastle, Moore, Oklahoma City and Shawnee in tatters, displacing hundreds of families, and resulting in 26 confirmed deaths.
For many residents affected by the record EF-5 tornado that tore through the central Oklahoma landscape, the week began with an anticipation of thunderstorms and heavy rain. That all changed May 20 as a deadly tornado developed southwest of Oklahoma City. The tornado grew as it moved through southeastern Oklahoma City and across Moore.
In the wake of the destruction, first responders from across the country began to pour into Moore and Oklahoma City, including support from the Oklahoma National Guard.
For one Oklahoma Air National Guardsman, the tornado came only a month after he returned from a six-month deployment to the Middle East. Air Force Senior Airman Brandon Tucker, a crew communication specialist with the 185th Air Refueling Squadron, was at home working in his garage, getting his personal items moved back into his house after deciding to take his house off the real estate market.
“I was here right before the tornado came through,” Tucker said. “I noticed that the wind had picked up quite a bit, and all of a sudden it just stopped, which I thought that was kind of odd. I walked inside in time to see Gary England announce that a tornado was heading toward the Newcastle Casino. I high-tailed it out of there.”
The citizens of Oklahoma City and Moore sought cover wherever they could and braced for their lives. The tornado left a trail of destruction stretching 17 miles from Newcastle to southeast Oklahoma City.
Search-and-rescue efforts immediately began as first responders, Oklahoma National Guardsmen and citizens of surrounding communities converged on the area in hopes of finding survivors. As the nation anxiously watched, news reports shifted from severe weather coverage to rescues and how others could contribute through much-needed donations.
With entire neighborhoods having been being wiped out by the tornado’s wrath, hundreds of Oklahomans were finding themselves homeless, and with only the clothes on their backs. Many of the residents started sifting through piles of debris and rubble in hopes of finding any personal items not swept away by the tornado’s more than 200 mph winds. Some of the neighborhoods were unreachable other than by foot or were too dangerous to allow residents back into as first responders were faced with fires, natural gas leaks and unstable structures.
“It was a full 24 hours before I was able to get back home with the streets so littered with debris; you just couldn’t get through any other way than by foot,” Tucker said. “When I finally got back, I could hardly recognize my house. I was overwhelmed by the amount of damage.”
Some of Tucker’s fellow National Guardsmen went with him as he rummaged through a pile of debris that now stands where his house once was. With the support of his military family that includes his father, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Tucker, public affairs sergeant for the 137th Air Refueling Wing, Brandon Tucker has begun the long process of cleaning and rebuilding.
“I was able to find a couple of pictures that could not be replaced with just money, and my pet has also safely made it through all of this with me,” Brandon Tucker said.
Oklahoma City has seen the effects of deadly tornados time and again in the past, and the resiliency of its citizens will help those who were most directly affected.
Like Brandon, the many people impacted have the support of the nation, the Oklahoma National Guard and the communities in which they live as they cope with loss and rebuild their lives.