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'It just looks like a war zone,' says Harford native of Oklahoma twister destruction

Tornadoes and Wind StormsThe Washington PostAmerican Legion

Diane Starr McDaniel's daily commute from her job as a physical therapist at Norman Regional Hospital in Norman, Okla., north to her family home in Edmond, Okla., takes her through the heart of Moore.

While on the telephone with a reporter from The Aegis Wednesday, the Havre de Grace native described areas where Monday's tornado destroyed homes and businesses as she traveled along I-35, a major north-south route serving the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

"On the side of I-35, either side, it just looks like a war zone," she said.

McDaniel said "there's absolutely nothing there," while passing what had been a housing development.

She also drove by the damaged Warren Moore movie theater, which has been featured in television coverage of the aftermath of the tornado.

McDaniel spotted a number of television satellite trucks nearby.

"It looks like a little antenna town," she said.

McDaniel is a physical therapist at Norman Regional Hospital in Norman, Okla., which took in patients from the nearly-destroyed hospital in nearby Moore after tornado struck the community.

The cleanup of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City with 55,000 residents that bore the brunt of the tornado's deadly force, began in earnest Wednesday, the Washington Post reported.

In addition to destroying or severely damaging hundreds of homes and buildings, including a school and medical center, over an area 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide Monday afternoon, two dozen people were killed by the tornado.

According to the Post report, the Oklahoma City medical examiner's office said that all 24 of the known dead have been identified. Ten are children, including two infants, 4 months and 7 months old, who both died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

McDaniel said Moore had also suffered damage when a series of tornadoes hit Oklahoma City and its surrounding communities in May of 1999, but the damage in Moore was even more severe this time because the suburb has grown heavily during the past decade.

"It was more devastating this time because they've grown so much," she said.

McDaniel, 55, grew up in Havre de Grace and is a 1975 graduate of Havre de Grace High School.

Her brother, Don Starr, still lives in Havre de Grace and is married to City Councilman Joseph Smith.

"We've been monitoring the situation... luckily they have not been impacted, but they've had to take cover a couple of times," Smith said Tuesday of his brother- and sister-in-law.

Richard Ferguson, commander of American Legion Post 47 in Havre de Grace, said his son resides in Moore, and attends college in the nearby city of Norman.

Ferguson said his son came through the storm intact, but had some damage in his yard.

McDaniel moved to Oklahoma in 1978 after being accepted into the University of Oklahoma's physical therapy program and has lived in the state ever since.

Her husband, David McDaniel, is a photographer for The Oklahoman newspaper, whose photography and news staffs provided the earliest national and worldwide coverage of Monday's disaster.

The McDaniels have been married for 29 years and have a 21-year-old son, Dillon, and 19-year-old daughter, Dana.

Although she considers herself an "Okie," Diane McDaniel occasionally comes home to see her family and for crab cakes and steamed crabs.

She said tornadoes are common in Oklahoma in the springtime, and despite the danger, she does not plan to move back east.

"You guys get hurricanes," she said of Maryland. "You have your own weather issues, too."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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