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Friday 23 May 2014

USA Oklahoma tornadoes: One year on
USA Oklahoma tornadoes: One year on
OKLAHOMA, USA. May 2013. Some of the debris and destruction caused by the tornadoes. (ShelterBox)

In May 2013, tornadoes swept through several areas in Oklahoma, destroying lives, homes and communities.  
 
Focus was on the two-mile wide tornado that tore through Oklahoma City’s suburbs but there was little attention on the tornado that impacted many people in the rural communities a few days earlier. People like Sherrie Starner, who lost her home to the tornadoes, could not move away to evacuation centres in the city as they had to be near their livelihoods. 
 
ShelterBox Response Team member Alan Monroe helped bring these families shelter as they rebuilt their homes. One year on, he recounts his experience: 
 
Living under tarps

‘When we arrived, we found people living out of their cars that were tumbled by the storms with shattered windows and they were living on their bench seats,’ said Alan. ‘There were people living under tarps on their plots of land. Some were in piles of rubble and some were in tents that were store-bought, consumer grade tents that were being completely battered by the wind. When you see something like that, you acquit it to the experiences you have in developing countries where people have met the criteria to receive ShelterBox aid. 
 
 
‘With a ShelterBox disaster relief tent, families could be near their livelihoods, near their land, and close to their family systems that they have in place. You cannot just pick up a population and move them so this was really the only option for families in these rural parts of Oklahoma.’
 
Rebuilding took longer than expected
 
ShelterBox’s disaster relief tents were distributed amongst communities in Bethel Acres and Little Axe to provide them with a temporary solution to bridge the gap until rebuilding was complete. Rebuilding took longer than expected, according to Sherrie Starner one year later, who is grateful for her ShelterBox tent:

OKLAHOMA. USA. May 2013. Sherrie Starner was grateful for her tent and slept in it wit her family for three to four months after the tornadoes destroyed their home. (Alan Monroe/ShelterBox)

‘The tents were really helpful. We slept in one for three to four months after we lost our home and are still using one now. ShelterBox tents are very strong, much better than other tents. You could hardly tell that the high winds were blowing. The outside may be moving a little bit but the inside is perfect. There is no comparison. These tents are way better. They were almost climate controlled because they were cooler in the hot sun.  It can get really hot outside and it was cooler inside.’ 
 
ShelterBox helped us
 
‘The destruction was so bad that many families chose not to come back at all. For those that did, their homes are still being built, like ours. Our community is being built by volunteers and it takes time. Our home will be finished by 1 August. I really appreciated our tent from ShelterBox; it helped us out so much. 
 
‘It’s been hard and long but my house is going up. We’re happy now…we are grateful for all of the volunteers that helped our community,’ said Sherrie.     
 
Alan added: ‘To hear the gratitude every family had for the donors and supporters who make this all possible makes you step back and realise what’s important.’ 

Thanks to all the ShelterBox supporters and volunteers who helped these families in their greatest time of need. 
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