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EF- 4 Tornado Damage - Picher, Oklahoma

May 10, 2008

On May 10, 2008, Picher was struck by a tornado. There were seven confirmed deaths, and many other injuries. The tornado first touched down near the Kansas-Oklahoma border in Oklahoma southwest of Chetopa, Kansas and tracked eastward. It then slammed into Picher with devastating results. 20 blocks of the town suffered extensive damage with houses and businesses destroyed or flattened. The damage in Picher was rated at EF4. At least 150 others were injured in Picher alone. The tornado continued eastward, passing just north of Quapaw and Peoria before crossing Interstate 44 into Missouri. This was the deadliest tornado in Oklahoma since the South Oklahoma City F5 tornado on May 3, 1999 which killed 36. The federal government also decided that there would be no aid given to rebuild homes, but the buyouts would continue as previously scheduled and people will be assisted in relocation.

Picher has become notable for its location near the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Tar Creek Superfund site, which had a long history of underground lead and zinc mining until around 1970. Chat piles left behind by the mining companies contain lead dust that has blown around the town. Elevated lead levels in Picher children have led to learning disabilities and other problems. The lead and zinc have also seeped into groundwater, ponds, and lakes, many of which still are used by children for swimming. Since the children of Picher have been found to have elevated levels of lead in their bodies, the EPA has since declared Picher to be one of the most toxic areas in the United States.

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A teddy bear amongst the demolished town.

Glass jars lie undamaged in the debris left by the tornado.

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Destroyed plumbing is all that remains of a home.

During a tornado, hiding in the bathtub is often given as advice. This tornado was so strong that even the tub was not a safe place to be.

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Antique truck in the debris.

Search & rescue markings were painted on the houses as they were searched for survivors.

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Two recliners sit where a house used to be.

Wood impaled into a house.

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Personal belongings were strewn everywhere.

A resident has erected a U.S. flag above the rubble.

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Photo of a mother & child.

Smashed windshield.

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There is a truck in there somewhere.

The roof remains but the house is gone. Actually, this roof may be from a different house.

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Demolished truck.

Vehicles are unsafe places during a tornado.

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A clock, frozen in time when the tornado struck.

Piles of debris everywhere.

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A missing roof.

The devastation is complete in this neighborhood.

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A slipper amongst the bricks & wood.

A storm cellar, the best place to ride out the storm.

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Pieces of wood became deadly missiles.

Obvious impacts from flying debris.

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A soccer ball in the disaster zone.

The glass is still intact in this fish tank.

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A thick board impaling the side of a trashed house.

Even the basketball net was bent over by the wind.

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A total loss.

The local gas station pumps.