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CVTC: Road to Recovery

On May 31, 2013, Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno took a direct hit from the widest known tornado in history.


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Canadian Valley Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1704: CVTC: Road to Recovery
Air Date: January 22, 2017



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, it will be four years this May since the largest tornado ever recorded cut a path just west of El Reno. Four storm chasers caught off guard by the storm’s immense size lost their lives that day, and the town’s CareerTech, well, it took a direct hit. But despite the damage, school went on. Today, we begin with the long road to recovery for Canadian Valley Technology Center.

Rob McClendon: May 31, 2013, is a day that has gone down in weather history. A killer tornado 2 miles wide with winds over 300 miles an hour.

Amy Simer: It was unreal, unbelievable.

Rob: The Canadian Valley Tech Center in El Reno destroyed – high tech equipment strewn around like garbage.

Greg Winters: My first reaction was, is, you know, what a shame. You know, it’s been such a great school for 40 some odd years, 42, 43 years, and then, in just a matter of less than a minute, you’ve got a lot of history and a lot of, you know, a lot of blood, sweat and tears that’s just basically wiped out. Just that quick. And you just go into shock, to be real honest about it. It’s probably the only way you can survive stuff like that, is your body and your brain just kind of takes over. And it was tough, I’ll tell you, really, really tough.

Rob: But not insurmountable.

Winters: You know, we had a responsibility to have school on Aug. 15. And we started school on Aug. 15.

Rob: Greg Winters is the superintendent of the Canadian Valley CareerTech District and says what his staff did over the next 75 days was nothing short of remarkable – picking up the pieces of what could be saved and moving them to a new, temporary location.

Gayla Lutts: This was the old car dealership showroom. Currently, it is a math classroom over in that corner. We’ve put walls up here to make the cosmetology classroom and to make another additional math classroom over there so that we have space for all our classes. And we still don’t have enough rooms.

Rob: But turning a once closed business into a technology center in just 75 days was neither cheap nor easy.

Winters: When we came into this building we had to run 1,200 amps of brand new 483 phase electricity. There were 600 amps in the building, and we needed 1,800 amps. We had to run 18,000 linear feet of cat 6 cable to hook up 400 computers. You know we had to, you know, grab the fiber optics from the Bank of Oklahoma location across the street that’s a Cox connection that’s high speed internet.

Rob: Which is vital.

Winters: Which is vital. I mean, you just have to have it. And so there was a lot of things that went our way. We have a lot of great people that just did an incredible job. I mean, they really did, you know. And you know, you’ve got a really good staff, but then you put them in a situation that we were put in, and it makes you kind of proud to be a superintendent at Canadian Valley, quite frankly.

Rob: And with classes underway in every nook and cranny of their temporary campus in Yukon, the clean-up in El Reno, well, it turned into a campus rebuild that led to this [ribbon cutting ceremony]. Gov. Fallin spoke to those gathered, many key players in keeping this school open throughout the hardships.

Mary Fallin: Well, the rebuilding at Canadian Valley Technology Centers fits in with all that’s great about Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Standard, the Oklahoma Strong. Anytime we face adversity, we see a community come together, the people come together, we pull, we get the job done, and we make things happen.

Lutts: It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful. It took, it took a lot of hard work on a lot of people’s parts, a lot of determination, just being vested in what our mission is and the fact that education empowers people and knowing that and believing in that, it just allowed us to accomplish what we needed to accomplish.

Rob: Now, later this spring we will bring you a full documentary on Canadian Valley’s Road to Recovery, but when we return, I have their superintendent to give me a look around.

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