Memories of May 3 tornado spark change in one Oklahoma community

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BRIDGE CREEK, Okla.- The devastation of the May 3, 1999 tornado changed the way the Bridge Creek community operated.

It changed the way families in the area built their homes, and it heightened their awareness of the weather.

Resident Gary Lavelle says the town is almost unrecognizable.

"It pretty much changed the landscape of everything out here," Lavelle said.

For parents, the destruction made them painfully aware of the lack of structures that are available to shelter their children during severe weather.

Those concerns sparked a bond issue for Bridge Creek Public Schools, which led to safe rooms being built in the high school and elementary school.

However, middle school students still had to walk outside and make their way to the high school to take shelter.

Since the first safe room was installed, the school has grown from 900 students to 1,500.

The growth of the community has left the students with barely enough room to pack into those safe rooms.

Superintendent David Morrow says that lack of space was a huge problem for Bridge Creek, adding that the community relies on the school as a safe haven as well.

"There's no shelter in this community other than our buildings," Morrow said.

So last September, the school applied for a $15.8 million bond.

Organizers say $12 million of that money would go toward construction of a new gymnasium floor, an air conditioning unit, a cafeteria for the middle school, and a new wrestling room built to withstand severe weather.

The wrestling room would include enough room for community members.

The Grady County Commissioners granted the bond, and the upgrades to the school are expected to be complete by December 2016.

Now, Morrow says students and community members will be taking shelter together in a safe manner, but they will never forget the devastation of May 3rd.

"The student's that were here in '99, a lot of them now live in the community and their kids go to school here and it never goes away. When you've been through something like that, it never goes away," Morrow said.

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