By Merrick Eagleton
STILLWATER, Okla. —
CARNEY — Recovery is happening in this rural town hit by an EF3 tornado on May 19.
FEMA and the American Red Cross have closed offices in town although assistance is still available. Residents continue to clear debris from property, and thoughts of rebuilding are creeping into their minds.
Ken Garcia, Red Cross regional director of communications for the central and western Oklahoma regions, said the Red Cross transitioned out of Carney last week. This decision was based on the dramatic decrease of people coming in for help.
“It’s a good thing,” Garcia said. “It’s a sign of recovery that people were beginning to get the help they need.”
For one Carney resident, the recovery process has not been as bad as it could have been.
Billy Field and his wife spent the day of the storm detailing the motor home they had purchased just four days earlier. After hearing about the severe weather headed their way, they waited out the storm in the bathroom of their in-laws’ house next door.
“This feeling that I had once it was over, and I don’t wish this feeling upon nobody, and that’s the feeling that you have to walk on the other side of the door and see what awaits you,” Field said.
The only thing remaining of his in-law’s house was the bathroom in which they had taken cover. His motor home was on its side, his work truck was damaged and his mobile home had been picked up and moved about 10 feet.
Field said it only took 15 minutes for members of his church, Chandler Friends Church, to arrive and begin helping. Field has not started rebuilding anything yet, but he has done a lot of clean up.
“They immediately started helping us pick up the pieces and they’ve been with us ever since,” Field said.
Field had full insurance coverage on his motor home.
Several days before the storm hit, Field canceled the insurance on his travel trailer and motorcycle. Field credits his wife for convincing him to keep the insurance until they sold the travel trailer and motorcycle. She called the company back to stop the process. Field also changed the insurance coverage on his work truck from liability only to full coverage six months before the tornado damaged it.
“She’s the brains of the operation,” Field said.
Field said he is thankful they had insurance. He has been working on his truck and other damages around the property. He said when the insurance claims come in, they plan to build a new house where his in-laws’ home used to be.
“This is going to be such a blessing,” Field said. “We’re gonna get a little bit of extra money.”
Field and his wife own 21⁄2 acres and so did his in-laws. After the tornado destroyed their home, Field’s in-laws chose to buy a house in Chandler rather than rebuild. They gave their acreage to Field. He wasn’t sure at first, but 5 acres is hard to walk away from, he said.
“At first, I was so overwhelmed that I guess I shut down and I checked out,” Field said. “I wasn’t going to come back. I wasn’t going to pick nothing up.”
Field decided to stay and intends to build a one-story cottage with brick and stone work.
Field said for those who only lost material possessions he believes they are better off than they were before the storm because of the help they have now.
“You know FEMA helps and the insurance helps and the agencies help and these volunteers help,” Field said.
The Red Cross is focusing on long-term recovery needs. This includes strengthening individual and community resilience by building safer schools and buildings. The Red Cross and other agencies are offering services to those in need.
“It may not be at the high school where it was located but we’re still available for those who need help,” Garcia said.
Tornado victims in need of assistance can call the Red Cross office at 405-228-9500.
Field said it is slowly getting easier but it is still a difficult experience.
“It’s a devastating first couple of days, you know?” Field said. “You’re overwhelmed with these emotions and stuff. It’s still an emotional journey.”