Oklahoma REALTORS® Launch Tornado Relief Effort

May 22, 2013

Residents of Moore, Okla., are beginning to pick up the pieces of their lives — and REALTORS® are helping their affected colleagues.

The Oklahoma City Metro Association of REALTORS® (OKCMAR) says at least 16 REALTORS® lost their homes, and many more had damage, when a massive tornado swept through the Moore area on Monday, ripping up homes and buildings along a 17-mile trail. The EF-5 tornado was estimated to be 1.3 miles wide; that’s more than 19 football fields strung end-to-end. Authorities have confirmed 24 dead, including 9 children, though that number isn’t final.

While damage to buildings and properties is still being assessed, experts say Monday’s tornado could rival or exceed the damage done in May 1999, when tornados in Oklahoma and Kansas damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 homes. According to the federal government’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, the 1999 twisters caused nearly $1.5 billion in total property damage.

REALTORS® responded to Monday’s disaster almost immediately, says OKCMAR President Keith Taggart. “The first people to call were from Joplin.”

The Ozark Gateway Association of REALTORS® in Joplin, Mo., meticulously documented its own relief actions after that city was hit by an EF-5 tornado in 2011, says Darla Cheek, manager of Education, Marketing, and External Relations for OKCMAR. “I don’t know what we would have done without them. They called the night of the storm, and they knew exactly what to do,” says Cheek, who is a resident of Moore. Cheek has served as a point person on the relief efforts, along with Blair Calvo, association executive for the Midwest City-Del City-Moore Association of REALTORS®.

The first order of business was to help with immediate needs. OKCMAR did that, providing $500 in emergency assistance to REALTORS® who had lost their homes. Now, Calvo and Cheek are working to assess the need — which keeps growing — and to coordinate the outpouring of assistance from local and state associations as far away as Arizona and Maine.

“Dallas [Metro-Tex Association] is already on the way with a truck load of water,” Cheek said two days after the tornado. To facilitate communication, Tessa Hultz, CEO of the Wichita (Kansas) Association of REALTORS®, has set up a Facebook page called Oklahoma Strong (not to be confused with a number of other Oklahoma Strong pages).

The Oklahoma Association of Realtors® is making Tornado relief available to REALTORS® through the Oklahoma Housing Foundation REALTOR® Disaster Relief Fund. “The REALTOR® Family is truly coming together to help our folks in Moore.”

Make a donation at the association’s Disaster Relief Fund page.

—Stacey Moncrieff, REALTOR® Magazine

This story was updated on 5/22/13, 5:19 p.m.