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The Tornado

Voices from the Future | Max Broderick

massive tornado

The Tornado

The Event: On May 20, 2013, a category EF-5 tornado — the highest rating on the Fujita scale —ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, with 210-mile-per-hour winds. Twenty-four people died, including seven children, who perished under a collapsed school wall. Twelve hundred homes, schools, businesses and a hospital were damaged or destroyed, amounting to $2 billion dollars in property loss in the area, which lies outside of Oklahoma City.

For Max Broderick, the weather forecast in Moore didn’t look good that day. A large, potentially violent tornado was on its way to his hometown.

“We get an average of two to three tornadoes a year in Moore, so I was prepared,” remembers Broderick, who is now a 30-year-old staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. “I was up to date with local National Weather Service announcements, and I knew the day before the estimated time and day the tornado was going to hit Moore.”

But Broderick didn’t know where the twister would touch down.

“I had just come back with my wife, Sheridan, from a four-week postpartum visit to a doctor with our baby girl,” Broderick says. “As the weather got worse, we decided to leave our house and drive away. We were away for 10 minutes, and in the meantime, the house was gone. Only the kitchen wall and the kitchen counters were standing when we returned. Everything else was gone.”

The tornado, which traveled through the Oklahoma City metro area, left a wound 17 miles long and about one mile wide on the ground. It destroyed everything that came in its way, including 300 homes, two schools, several businesses and the Moore Medical Center hospital, which was totally ravaged.

“Debris from demolished and damaged structures was scattered everywhere,” Broderick says.

Luckily, since Broderick and his wife were unhurt, they were able to help their neighbors, many of whom were injured or whose houses were buried under the rubble.

“My wife drove injured people in our truck to get help because ambulances couldn’t get onto our streets,” Broderick says. “I searched for anybody who needed help. I pulled survivors out of the rubble, and a few that did not make it.”

Moore is situated amid “tornado alley,” a swath of land in the middle of the country that sees an excess of tornado activity. So much so, that some Moore residents — estimated in the hundreds — left town in the 2013 tornado’s wake.

The Brodericks didn’t.

“After one year, we had a new house at the same place, where the old house once stood,” Broderick says. “But with one distinctive difference – the house is safer than the old one, because we have a 5-foot-deep, 12-foot-long and five-foot-wide storm shelter under the garage floor.”

Should another devastating tornado strike, the first responders know where to look for Broderick and his family.

“The law requires us to register the shelter with the city,” Broderick says. “Understandably, the tornado seasons after the one in 2013 were hard for my wife. I haven’t had a need to go in, but my wife has.”

In fact, Broderick believes that a tornado won’t hit an exact target twice.

”I know there is no science behind my opinion, but I trust my logic,” Broderick says. “If you look at the history in Moore, our previous house had been lived in since the 1970s and it never got hit before. During the same time period, other parts of the city got hit while it experienced two devastating EF-5 tornadoes.”

Moreover, Broderick has no plans to leave town in the future. Nor does he have a view of whether current changes in climate have an impact on the intensity or severity of the tornadoes.

However, Broderick did learn one thing in 2013: ”The tornado was an eye-opening experience in the sense that everything you are familiar with can change so quickly. It also confirmed what I have always believed in. I still put people above things – you can always replace things, but not people.”

— Kirsi-M. Hayrinen-Beschloss