Tahlequah Daily Press

Z_CNHI News Service

November 20, 2013

First responders relive harrowing day



“Moments afterwards your thoughts are ‘there’s no way this city can bounce back after something like this again’ and then within a couple weeks people are already building homes. It’s pretty amazing how fast the turnaround can be and it just seems like it was so much faster this time than in the past,” Lewis said.

Whether it was because of previous experience or more resources, Lewis isn’t sure, but he thinks it’s amazing. Within minutes after the storm, city street crews were clearing roads that were completely covered with trash and debris.

Lewis said the main roads were cleared immediately and even the residential streets were cleared within hours of the storm which was a huge help.

“Overall our city, every department, plays a key role and they just have learned from past storms and you could see that across the board. Everyone just kind of knew what they needed to be doing. Even though we were taken back at how large it was, still there was progress being made immediately,” he said.

Lewis said the good part about it, if there is a good part, was that the 2013 tornado hit a different part of the city so those who experienced the ’99 tornado were able to come help with this one. The police department also learned from the ’99 tornado that they needed to try and open the city up faster this time around. During the ’99 tornado, it took nearly a month to open the city back up.

“This time we opened our city up within two days,” Lewis said. “That seemed to work a lot better. Trying to keep people out, that just makes people angry.”

Opening it up sooner helped more than the police thought it would, too. It alleviated some of the traffic and some of the stress people were under trying to get to their property to see what they had left, he said.

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