Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

He Escaped Tornado, Now He's Going Back Powerful Twister's Devastation Hits Home for New Pittsburgher

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

He Escaped Tornado, Now He's Going Back Powerful Twister's Devastation Hits Home for New Pittsburgher

Article excerpt

The power of a tornado, its ability to tear a place apart, is what drove John Jones from his Oklahoma home, eventually landing him in Pittsburgh.

More than a decade later, another powerful and deadly tornado is pulling him back.

Mr. Jones, 57, a North Side resident who works on a Marcellus Shale drilling site, was on the job Monday when a tornado pummeled Moore, Okla., killing at least 24 people. The town, a suburb of Oklahoma City with a population of about 56,000, was where Mr. Jones lived until a deadly 1999 tornado convinced him he had to stop living in a place that could be destroyed in an instant.

He left Oklahoma, moved around and eventually ending up in Pittsburgh six months ago. But many of his family members, about 15 cousins in all, stayed put, rooted to a place where so much was uprooted Monday.

Mr. Jones said he heard on the news that this tornado was much worse than the 1999 one he survived, but he was unable to imagine what could be worse than that. He got in his car Tuesday morning and headed west toward Moore, not sure what he would find, but hoping to discover his family and a way he can help.

Authorities initially said as many as 51 people were dead, including 20 children. Updated reports say the storm killed at least nine children.

"If you've ever gone through something like this, you know that people can use all the help they can get," he said.

Cleveland County, the portion of Oklahoma that contains Moore, has gone through something like this before, many times over. According to an Internet database of tornado events maintained by the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., Cleveland County has experienced 15 tornadoes in the past decade.

People stay in the area known as "tornado alley" because it's their home, it's where their family is and because it's hard to pick up and leave, Mr. Jones said.

"People love that area," he said. …

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