Sycamore resident travels to Oklahoma to aid with tornado disaster relief relief
Sycamore—A powerful tornado tore through Moore, Okla., just 11 miles south of Oklahoma City on May 20, between 2:56 and 3:36 p.m. The tornado, which destroyed two elementary schools, a middle school, the Moore Medical Center and a movie theater, was ranked between an EF4 and EF5, two of the most disastrous ranks on the “Enhanced Fujita Scale,” established in February 2007.
Sycamore resident Lee Newtson recently took it upon himself to go and help with the disaster relief in Oklahoma.
“I was in the Shawnee rural area at a subdivision by a pond of 85 home sites that were destroyed by the first tornado,” he said.
Newtson’s trip lasted just over a week. He described the scene of his first night there.
“On Friday, we got a tornado warning and had to get out of there and seek shelter. I was a few miles away in a motel room when the storm hit. I was seriously planning on getting into the bathroom and in the tub,” he said. “The storm was fierce with very dark clouds, wind, rain and a lot of lightning. The electrical system of my car door locks was triggered and it unlocked my car and opened the trunk lid. When I went out, I found five to six inches of water in my trunk.”
Newtson also went into detail about how he and others helped the victims.
“We were able to get a big tent from a local veteran post to use for a central drop-off and pick-up point. Then we got a hold of a company that brought in port-o-potties,” he said. “We contacted Lake View Church and survival supplies starting rolling in. Then we called a pump repair company to assist with the use of a generator to get the battered up water system working so people could have water to drink. Many coolers with ice and beverages are now available with some food. We started to get the residents some relief, sanitation, food, water and compassion. We were a shoulder to lean on and a sounding board to listen.”
Newtson is no stranger to helping with disasters such as this—he’s assisted with disaster relief in Joplin, Missouri; Harrisburg, Ill.; and Ridgeway, Ill. Newtson says he has a lot of support from the Grace Fellowship Church in Maple Park and from his prayer group comprised of churches in the area.
On top of many other family, friends, and acquaintances, he also personally acknowledged Pat Hill, Kaneville Village Board President and owner of Hill’s Country Store.
“(Pat) has gone above and beyond in doing fundraisers, raffles and collecting money for my trips,” Newtson said. “She even packed a cooler full of sandwiches, snacks, and beverages for me to use during my drive to Oklahoma.
Newtson took the trip—totaling 1,946 miles—alone in his Mercury Grand Marquis.
“I could not find a place to stay overnight, so I slept in my car at a truck stop the first night,” he said.
Newtson said that he had a plan of action put together, but he wound up making a wrong turn the next night and found Lake View Church, a distribution and shelter for victims, which directed him to the area in which he volunteered.
“Many of the volunteers told me of the area just a few miles away that had 85 homes in it that were destroyed, and no one was there with any assistance for them,” he said.
Newtson said that he relies on donors to enable his trips to these disaster areas.
“When they came out of the storm shelters, they only had clothes on their back and nothing else. No home. No car. Everything was gone,” he said. “I hope that we were able to lighten the load and be of help and support to those who endured such devastating hardship.”