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Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

Tornado Disaster Recovery and Clean-up

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

Award Category: 
Social Responsibility
President's Award
Award Year: 

Purpose and Objectives

On May 19 and 20, 2013, several tornados touched down in central Oklahoma, causing widespread destruction and devastation in several communities. A deadly EF5 tornado tore through heavily-populated Moore, OK, and also hit smaller communities north and east of Moore. The damage inflicted by the tornados included 24 dead, 377 injured, and 3,937 homes and businesses destroyed. Following a declaration of emergency by Oklahoma Governor Fallin and President Obama, OTA stepped forward to help clean up the aftermath of the storms and restore key transportation corridors, enabling emergency responders and volunteers to get to the scene of the devastation.

Given the widespread destruction,  restoration of transportation infrastructure was a critical need. With obstructions limiting access to the disaster area, OTA crews worked to clear inbound and outbound roadways, removing debris and hauling it to a local dump. OTA’s efforts made it possible for first responders, relief agencies, and volunteers to respond to the significant needs experienced by local residents and businesses, thereby contributing to a sense of hope and recovery for the communities that were devastated by the storms.

Under state protocols, the Turnpike Authority was deployed through the state Secretary of Transportation as part of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (ODEM). Emergency services were underwritten by reallocating hourly and overtime salaries from routine maintenance activities—all of which are funded through OTA toll revenues.


The Oklahmoa Turnpike Authority focused its cleanup efforts on city streets and residential lots, using heavy equipment to help people who had no other way to quickly remove large volumes of debris.

OTA was onsite the morning after the May 20 tornado, with crews putting in long, hard days under tough conditions until their portion of the work was complete. OTA mobilized the human resources required to get the job done quickly and efficiently. When the situation called for more or different equipment, field managers had the authority and ability to buy what they needed. The Authority’s efforts earned praise from the Secretary of Transportation, ODEM, the affected communities, and local media.

Innovative Features

When the OTA crews were first deployed, they arrived with large front-end loaders. It quickly became clear that these large pieces of equipment were less than ideal for the confined space between city street curbs, so the Authority quickly brought in skid-steer loaders that were more suitable for the work that had to be done. When work crews realized that grapple attachments on the skid-steers would make recovery operations more efficient, the grapple attachments were purchased and used.

OTA’s response to the Moore tornados showed how tolling agencies can help citizens who are unable to help themselves in a time of emergency and devastation. By being good neighbors and answering the call, the Authority quickly cleared essential access routes and established closer bonds with its community. Working together, OTA crews from different turnpikes built their own sense of connection and achieved greater pride and team spirit.

Agency Contact
David Murdock