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How the May 20th tornado might impact Moore’s future population

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
August 8, 2013
 

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This story was written by KOSU’s Quinton Chandler.

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Before the May 20th Tornado Moore enjoyed the highest population growth rate in the Oklahoma City Metro area. That’s according to 2010 census data. Is that claim in jeopardy? Other cities have been hit just as hard by deadly storms, how does their recovery process compare for what is expected for Moore?

Of the few cities recently hit by an F5 tornado, Joplin, Missouri comes closest to Moore’s population. Joplin has been called the standard for disaster recovery in the U.S. In fact, Jim Corbett with the city of Moore says:

“There’s been some advice and insight that the City of Joplin gave us about three of their employees were at a recent council meeting.”

Back in 2010, Joplin had a count of 50,000 people compared to Moore’s 55,000. The twister took the lives of 158 people on May 22nd 2011. But, city manager Mark Rorh says they only saw about 6% of their residents move out after the storm.

“That didn’t just happen. We did things to make that happen.”

“We did some research right after the storm and discovered some other cities and what their experience was as a result of natural disasters and some saw 35% – 40% population loss. We were not going to let that happen to Joplin.”

In two years Rohr says the city has come a long way.

“Right now we have about 85% of the homes impacted either repaired rebuilt or we have plans pulled to do so.”

And he says the same goes for 90% of businesses hit by the twister. But now they’re focusing less on motivating their current population to stay and more on drawing in new people. To accomplish this they’ll add new amenities to try and make the cityscape shine. Deidre Ebrey with the city of Moore says eventually they will go in the same direction.

“That was already in the works prior to the storm so there are going to be some amazing parks here that were going to happen anyway.”

“We’re going to invest heavily in infrastructure, improving streets, water systems, sewer systems.”

But, remember that comes later. First they have to get back what they’ve lost.

“Obviously there will be a population dip because there will be close to 1200 fewer houses in the city limits here. I believe our growth, our steady growth, which has been about 2 and a half percent between 2 and 3 percent annually, will hold.”

We’ll do a little quick math here. She’s estimating the May 20th destroyed 1200 homes. Multiply that by two and a half people, the average number of residents per home and that’s approximately 3,000 of Moore’s residents who had to move out. And that by itself may be an improvement over the past.

“We estimate the population in ’99 prior to the tornado as 45,000, by the 2000 census I believe the population was at 40,318.”

A little slip up from Jim there. The census actually calculated 41,318, making for a loss of nearly 4,000 people. Like Joplin, Jim says it took between 1 to 2 years for most of the missing residents to return and rebuild and that’s pretty much how long he and Deidre expect it take this time around.

“Anytime you have a growing community and a highly sought after community, which Moore is, then that’s exactly what happens. People are going to do whatever they can to get into the city limits.”

Jim and Deidre both live in Moore so you can’t blame them for having high expectations but don’t just take their word for it. Dr. Duane Gill with OSU studies the sociology of disasters and he agrees there will be a population loss at first but it won’t last forever.

“Overall it’s going to continue to grow it’s got a really good geographical location. There’s lots of good economic activity for employment. It’s convenient to the metroplex of OKC also convenient to OU.”

But what about the tornado threat? Two F5’s in a little over 10 years…doesn’t that make a difference?

“Really if you look at it from a broader perspective there’s really no place where you can escape natural hazards. There’s probably some people who will say I’ve had enough let’s find somewhere else to live but I think most people will balance out for living in Moore.”

Gill says in time he expects Moore’s rebound to make the city even bigger and stronger than before.  

 

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