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The Daily Rundown
updated 5/21/2013 12:48:40 PM ET 2013-05-21T16:48:40

Former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., and former Okla. reporter Lois Romano say the tornado that hit the town of Moore on Monday looks as bad, or worse, than the 1999 twister that caused $1.4 billion in damage.

For many residents of Moore, Okla., Monday’s devastating tornado was an unwelcome bit of déjà vu: in 1999, another deadly twister slammed the city, killing 36 people and injuring 583 others.

Fourteen years ago, the Bridge Creek/Moore tornado was one of only six tornadoes in U.S. history to cause more than $1 million in damage, impacting more than 8,000 homes and ultimately costing $1.4 billion to clean up.

Former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., who represented the Sooner State from 1981 until his retirement in 2005, and Politico reporter Lois Romano, who was a correspondent in Tulsa for a decade, were there for that deadly storm more than a dozen years ago, and said on Tuesday’s The Daily Rundown that the current devastation in Moore could be similarly costly.

“I’ve been and seen, witnessed the recoveries of a lot of tornadoes, but the one in [1999] in Moore stands out, because it was so devastating,” said Nickles. “Frankly, we were so lucky in 1999. It was a devastating tornado, just missed a high school…and no one was killed, I don’t think, in the high school. It could have killed hundreds, so we were very fortunate. But it was devastating. And this just looks just like it.

“I think it looks worse” than the tornado 14 years ago, Romano said. ”I can remember driving from Tulsa to Oklahoma City that morning and it’s like what you would imagine Armageddon to be. I mean, you’re looking around and tractor-trailers are totally turned on their sides and houses are kind of decimated. And when we got to the core about it, the thing about these tornadoes, is that they strike with an odd precision. So you’ll walk to a home and all the walls will be down, right, the roof will be off, and the china closet will be standing there with china in it without anything touched.”

Nickles said that while Oklahomans are used to tornadoes, it will be a difficult recovery for the community of Moore and surrounding areas.

“They are resilient and they’ll bounce back,” said Nickles.  “But for this area, it is devastating.”

Video: Moore, Oklahoma faced ‘challenges’ before, will ‘bounce back’

  1. Closed captioning of: Moore, Oklahoma faced ‘challenges’ before, will ‘bounce back’

    >> have only been six tornados in u.s. history to cause more than $1 billion in damage. one of them was in moore , oklahoma , it was in 1999 . the bridge creek / moore tornado killed 36 people, injured 583, damaged or destroyed over 8,000 homes and it cost $1.4 billion to clean up. now the town is responding to another devastating twister. president obama , who spoke to oklahoma governor mary fallin monday evening has declared a major disaster declaration in the state. that leameans a whole bunch of federal aid can start coming in. at the president's zrex, fema administrator craig fugate is traveling to oklahoma this morning. we'll hear from the president later at the end of this hour. governor fallin was on " morning joe " just a few minutes ago.

    >> this is a big job to coordinate something of this magnitude. this is a huge disaster area . it's horrific. it's a big tragedy and a sad day for oklahomans and we want to do everything that we can to get emergency personnel out there, to get food, water, shelter, and getting back to the president, he did call and we are very grateful for that. we appreciate them approving the fema direction quickly. he offered any type of resources we might need here in the state and we appreciate that.

    >> politico's lois romano covered that '99 storm, and don nibls, a former republican senator from oklahoma , who has a long experience with these kind of disasters. welcome to both of you. senator nichols, tell me about moore , oklahoma .

    >> well, it's a special place. it's a suburb of oklahoma city . unfortunately, it's had this challenge before. i was there in '99, after that storm, and it was devastating. i can remember, i've been and seen, witnessed the recoveries of a lot of tornadoes, but the one in '99 in moore stands out, because it was so devastating. and frankly, we were so lucky in '999. it was a devastating tornado, just missed a high school . the high school was full of kids. and the high school parking lot , i remember it like yesterday, was just, i don't know, a hundred cars, just jammed together. and no one was killed, i don't think, in the high school . it could have killed hundreds, so we were very fortunate. but it was devastating. and this just looks just like it.

    >> i was going to say, lois , tell me about the -- you're watching all this coverage over the last 24 hours and i've heard you on the phone talking with friends and family you have there. what do you see?

    >> i think it looks worse. i can remember driving from tulsa to oklahoma city that morning and it's like what you would imagine armageddon to be. i mean, you're looking around and tractor-trailers are tote lly turned on their side skand houses are kind of decimated. and when we got to the core about it, the thing about these tornadoes, is that they strike with an odd precision. so you'll walk to a home and all the walls will be down, right, the roof will be off, and the china closet will be standing there with china in it.

    >> without anything touched.

    >> without anything touched. and, you know, i remember talking to a woman who, one of the things they tell you to do, oklahomane oklahomans are very well versed in this. they say, get in your bathtub and put a mattress over you. i remember walking to this town house , there was the shell of the town house , you could see a rickety staircase going up to the top, and she was in the tub, and she -- when it was over, she pulled the mattress off, and she's just looking at the sky. it's just extraordinary.

    >> you know, senator, you talked about -- and lois just mentioned how well versed okalhomans are with this, in dealing with this. talk about the rebuilding. how long did it take moore to recover? there's one thing to recover psychologically.

    >> they are resilient and they'll bounce back. but for this area, it is devastating. and i agree with lois . this may be -- these places were absolutely obliterated?

    >> some are saying that school and the hospital, you're sitting there and you can't believe it.

    >> the school is what just tugs at your heart. to think of having the kids go through that. i hope and pray that your revised numbers --

    >> i know, it's like the only exciting things you heard this morning, maybe the number's wrong.

    >> when i first got up this morning, i'm checking online and i heard the number might go up to 91, i thought, oh, this is terrible, and now we're maybe talking down from 51, i really hope and pray that's the case.

    >> parents make a judgment, you know, because you believe the schools are going to be safe. schools are built --

    >> they're built to be shelters. everywhere in the country.

    >> the high school that the senator was talking about was actually a shelter. people were there because they were told to go there. it was meant to be a shelter. so you make a judgment, and the school says, we're secure, so let's leave the kids here.

    >> and i was surprised how few houses have basements in moore . why is that?

    >> i'm not really sure, geographically -- why they don't do it. i think it's just -- well, i know why, i'm sorry, there's a lot of clay in the ground. the grounds are very, very hard. so they have a designated storm cellar . you might have a storm cellar , you know, maybe 30 feet from your house. that's correct, right? and then you have designated shelters. and the other thing is, this is like an industry in oklahoma . so the weather people are on this.

    >> and they know this stuff. they're basically --

    >> they know this stuff a lot better than our arch -- you guys are sticking around. senator nichols and lois romano . we'll be back with our continuing coverage of what is just a devastating situation in moore , oklahoma . but before

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