Building in Harmony with the Storms of Oklahoma

May 21, 2013

Every few years now, a fatal tornado hits a newly and inexpensively organized suburban area in a state otherwise filled with nature-rich landscapes as old as the Earth herself. Oklahoma, land of the Red Human and land of the red conservative, is made diversely of green hills, ancient rocky mountains, and dry prairie. Through all of her body, rivers and creeks spread like veins carrying water to and from lakes like organs giving us more shoreline than any other of the United States. She’s beautiful and hearty. But listen: Hell hath no fury like Nature unconcerned with humans who try to squeeze quick buildings into spaces she has claimed forever. Competitiveness between our natural state and our modern state may be inherent, but high death tolls don’t have to be the result.

I cried myself to sleep last night on my boyfriend’s shoulder after watching the news as the 2nd round of deadly tornadoes hit our state. My love for this place and her people are deep. Her pain is my pain. Oklahoma’s environment has provided her people with some of the most awe-inspiring views available from Earth. Those views can go from breathtaking:

oklahoma storm

Photo by Sterlin Harjo.

to heart-breaking:

moore tornado

Photo by Sue Ogrocki, AP.

in less than an hour. Oklahoma has given me soil to garden and sun and rain to grow food. Oklahoma has given me people unlike any others, strong women and sweet men. Oklahoma deserves our respect and intelligence. As her people, we should vow to work with her temper in order to keep each other healthy and safe.

If we build structures, especially public and other high-traffic structures, we must consider the environment in which we build. It is clear that environment includes the natural disasters an area is prone to. City planners, building contractors, and architects constructing facilities in Oklahoma should consider the frequency of tornadoes past. Take note where folks who came before us to this land did not settle. Avoid those areas. If not, make sure all buildings have tornado shelters. For public buildings paid for by taxpayers, like schools, people will gladly support such preparedness measures even if it means a bit more money. Safe rooms can double as music rooms, like the one I went to as a child in the 80s at Wewoka Elementary (go Tigers!). Our kids are worth it.

C’mon lawmakers, city leaders, citizens, make this happen. Other states do it. California has building codes created to try to keep people safe from earthquakes. They work. Buildings that already existed which did not meet building codes can be and have been successfully retrofitted. We can encourage this type of safety measure on the state or the city level. There are also federal grant moneys that towns can use to build community shelters. Look here on FEMA’s website.

Speaking of FEMA, a note to our Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn and other fiscal hawks and anti-government types: While Oklahoma does not have the preventative measures in place or the relief and helping funds available to take care of this giant disaster, we need as much federal relief help as possible. Your politics are out of touch with the people and the state you represent.

To my fellow Okies, voters, and citizens: The politics of our US Senators matter. Did you know that our Senators both voted to block funding to FEMA when the agency’s resources were exhausted during Hurricane Sandy? Did you know that the city of Moore was in the midst of applying for a FEMA grant to help build tornado shelters for the community when the tornado that has killed 24 people, some children at the end of a school day, hit? The shelters were supposed to have beed approved and built by now, but paperwork stalled the process and FEMA didn’t have available funds.

I’m not saying that every single tragic death could have been prevented. But Oklahoma files more federal disaster and fire declarations than every other state, save California and Texas – both states way bigger and more populated than OK. Our geographical position and topographical constitution make for incredible storms, and these storms can be destructive. And so, we must learn to live and build in better harmony with our storms, and we must elect  representatives who understand our particular needs. Environment and politics are connected.

Surely this is one area where progressives, liberals, moderates, and conservatives can all agree. We don’t even have to rely so heavily on big, scary federal relief to clean up our mess if we can take precautions to reduce the size of these messes. So let’s. Until then, Okies need all the moneys available to retrofit and adapt existing structures. I’m not going to resort to name calling; I’m just gonna say that guys like Inhofe and Coburn are out of touch with modern needs of our people and our state. I suggest we vote them out of office. And if you’re not registered to vote, C’MON. SRSLY.

Oklahoma deserves our best. Now to begin the healing process.

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One Response to “Building in Harmony with the Storms of Oklahoma”

  1. wilene M Says:

    this is the words i couldn’t form myself TY i feel the same WAY!!! “. Oklahoma has given me soil to garden and sun and rain to grow food. Oklahoma has given me people unlike any others, strong women and sweet men. Oklahoma deserves our respect and intelligence. As her people, we should vow to work with her temper in order to keep each other healthy and safe.”


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