Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Schools Face Tough Choices As A Tornado Nears

Schools Face Tough Choices As A Tornado Nears:

Schools Face Tough Choices As A Tornado Nears

After the educators at Plaza Towers Elementary School learned that a raging tornado was headed their way Monday, they had few options. The decades-old building -- one of five schools hit in the area -- didn't have a "safe room," or a shelter deemed safe for storms of that size.

All hell broke loose. The roof caved in. Teachers carried students out. "They literally were lifting walls up and kids were coming out," Oklahoma State Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis said, according to Reuters. "They pulled kids out from under cinder blocks without a scratch on them." Tornado drills in Oklahoma traditionally train kids to leave their classrooms, head to the hallways, and duck for cover in fetal position.

According to the latest counts, seven children were found dead at the school -- drowned in water.

As the tornado hit, the Moore, Okla., school evacuated fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders to a nearby church, but left the children in kindergarten through third grade in place. As rescue workers dug through the rubble Tuesday, and a community searched for answers, no word had yet emerged on the reason for the split. Moore's school

Oklahoma Schools Lacked Consistent Tornado Shelter Rules

The two elementary schools leveled by the deadly tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City area Monday lacked designated safe rooms designed to protect children and teachers, despite state warnings that the absence of such facilities imperils lives.

At least two other schools in Moore -- the epicenter of the disaster -- did have safe rooms. So far no fatalities have been tied to those schools, whose buildings were fortified after a devastating twister hit the area in 1999.

These disparities in structural standards speak to the seeming randomness of who lived and who died in a natural disaster now blamed for taking the lives of at least 24 people, including nine children. Requirements for safe rooms in public schools vary from community to community across the swath of Midwestern and Southern states so accustomed to lethal twisters that it is known as Tornado Alley.

In Oklahoma and in bordering states, land-use regulations are often derided as unnecessary government