Oklahoma Tornadoes: How FAA employees were affected; how you can help
Friday, May 24, 2013

NATCA's thoughts and prayers are with the many people in Oklahoma devastated by last week’s series of tornadoes. All reports so far are that NATCA members and FAA Academy students are all OK. The Oklahoma City area is not only home to some of our current members, but has been home to so many in our membership.

Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters from the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists are dealing with a terrible tragedy, the loss of Oklahoma Chapter Vice President Terri Long who was killed in last Monday’s tornado. Writes PASS on its website:

“Many PASS members and their families living in Oklahoma City were impacted by the tornado that devastated the area this week. PASS is saddened by the loss of one of our own sisters, Oklahoma Chapter Vice President Terri Long. Our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time.”

(Please see below for a story about Long from the FAA employees website.)

Many NATCA members are helping in a variety of ways. Some are working through Kim's Place OKC, located in Mustang, Okla., outside Oklahoma City, which provides housing for FAA Academy students but is now offering a place to stay for several people, including families, displaced by Monday's tornado. They are also accepting donations of cash and needed items and delivering them. For information on how to help, and to follow their updates, please click here:

NATCA Dallas-Fort Worth Tower (DFW) member Joe Romero drove up supplies to Kim’s Place, which were delivered to families in the hard hit neighborhood of Steelman Estates in Shawnee, Okla. The story of Kim Koumbis’s trip to Shawnee to was captured by a CNN producer. This CNN iReport can be found here:

NATCA members at Kansas City Center (ZKC) are also working to provide supplies to the affected Oklahoma communities. From ZKC Facility Representative Aaron Merrick:

“ZKC NATCA members Mark Bodine (Trails) and Nick Cook (Trails), have volunteered to drive donations down to Moore, Okla., for the victims of the ravaging tornado that hit there. The tentative plan is to load up and drive down Thursday, May 30th. However if we are delayed in getting donations in, we may push it a bit. We are told that they have plenty of water. Grant Rodebush (Ozark) and his wife Andrea who are from Oklahoma have followed the situation closely and have offered the following information below as to what items are needed. Additionally, Tabitha Paul (Flint Hills) was just two blocks away from the tornado when it hit. She knows many friends that were severely impacted by the storm. She has also offered assistance in taking goods to Moore as she travels there weekly.”

Information from Rodebush, via the Moore, Okla., Facebook page:

“Hey guys we have a few Moms asking for some stuff if anyone can help with these requests: 2 new pack and play for girls and one for boy. Big swing gender neutral (gender is going to be a surprise) new car seat for girl and boy new born clothes for both. If anyone can help with new items please let us know so we can give them the news. Thanks guys!!!!

“We have received word that Yellow Rose Theater at 1005 S.W. Moore Revival for Christ. Needs Diapers, wipes formula of all sorts, bottles, all kinds of baby furniture i.e. beds, swings, bouncers, car seats, strollers, double strollers, toddler car seats. Baby, infant and toddler clothing and shoes. Baby bedding, blankets and anything baby that you can think of please bring it to this location. Or if you are out of town let us know. Thank you.

"I need to collect little boys and girls clothes sizes as follows.. Boys: shirts sizes 12- 14 jeans 12-14, shoes/socks size 4 & underwear size 12.. little girls clothes to follow.. Thank You ALL in advance!

Says Merrick: “If you are able to donate any of these items or have anything else that Mark, Nick or Tabitha could transport to the area, it would be much appreciated. ZKC NATCA Local will be purchasing items for transport as well.”

250 S. Rogers Road
Olathe, KS  66062

Twitter: @zkcnatca

View the Oklahoma City Tornado Assistance Information page for more information about how you can help your fellow FAA family members and what to do if you need assistance. Click HERE:

In Memoriam: Terri Long

Terri Elizabeth Long was committed for years to her career in the Registration Division at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, as well as to community service in her home state of Oklahoma.

On Monday, the legal instruments examiner and vice president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) was among the 24 identified men, women, and children killed in the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. She had stopped at a convenience store that day to seek shelter from the impending storms.

Long loved traveling, photography, “anything Harley Davidson,” and helping others, according to her obituary. She is described as a “caring, compassionate soul who never met a stranger and treated friends like family.”

She was born on May 27, 1963 in Oklahoma City to Jerry and Mary Brewer, and grew up in Nicoma Park, Okla., a city in Oklahoma County, with her two younger brothers, Darry and Garry.

She loved to read and camped out to see the “Twilight” movie series with her daughters. She was planning for her youngest daughter, Alyson’s, graduation this week from Southmoore High School, and her 50th birthday on Monday. She doted on her grandchildren, who lovingly called her “Mimi.”
She often recited a quote to her children from Janis Joplin — “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.”

Long volunteered for a local non-profit organization, Ally’s House, that raises money for families with children who have cancer. Terri was always eager to help the charity, working at gift-wrapping fundraisers over Christmas and spending hours as a volunteer at summertime golf tournaments. “She’d be out there in the heat, the cold — no matter what,” said her friend at Ally’s House. Terri was “a volunteer for all seasons.”

Long also always spoke highly of her PASS brothers and sisters. In 2009, Long, a cancer survivor, was the recipient of donations made by fellow PASS members when her doctor recommended that she undergo radiation therapy. In a letter to PASS at the time, Long was overwhelmed by the support of the PASS community. "To be associated with a group of people who can move mountains for their fellow brothers and sisters is an honor and one for which I am truly grateful," she said.

Following a series of storms and tornadoes that hit the region in 2010, Long joined forces with fellow Oklahoma chapter members and a local church to collect donations and provide relief to those in need.
She is survived by her husband, Kenneth, her three children, Terry Don Costilla, Jenna Costilla, and Alyson Costilla, and two grandchildren, Brayden Silva and Ella Costilla.

Focus FAA also has the story of an FAA employee who survived Monday’s tornado in a bank vault.

'We're putting everybody in the vault.'

When Warren Dempsey heard the tornado warning come across the radio as he was driving home from his job at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, being an Oklahoman, he knew the drill.

It was about 2:50 p.m. on May 20 and Dempsey, an engineer with the Interfacility Communications Engineering Team at the center, was only a few minutes from home. He wanted to bring his pet Dalmatian inside.

“I knew there was potential for bad weather and possible tornados,” he said. “On the way home, I was listening to the radio when [conditions] just started to rapidly deteriorate. Probably at about 2:50, they said there was a tornado on the ground to the southwest of Moore. Therefore, I started thinking about shelter options en-route to my home."

As anxious as he was to retrieve his dog, Dempsey detoured to the Tinker Credit Union in Moore, Okla., where he knew a vault offered safety. “I started thinking my personal survivability is the most important thing at this point.”

“As I got there and went in the lobby, the lady there said, ‘We’re putting everybody in the vault.’ I said, ‘That’s the reason I’m here.’”

Warren and nearly two dozen other employees and credit union members sweated it out in the vault for 15 minutes. The manager of the credit union noted that the vault was reinforced with 12 inches of concrete. Eye-bolts had been attached to the inside of the vault and its door, but the reinforced iron rod that was meant to secure the door could not be found, so a man secured the door with his belt, looping it through the bars.

“I’m a real analytical person,” said Dempsey. “I’m thinking we’re safe in here and the tornado can’t hurt us.”

And then the tornado hit.

The barometric pressure dropped so quickly that Dempsey’s ears popped.

“All of a sudden, this concrete structure was vibrating and shaking. It was horrendous. It was like standing close to a train.”

The sound resembled large jackhammers beating against the sides of the vault. The force of the wind snapped the belt holding the door closed. It opened a few inches, just far enough for chunks of concrete to blow into the structure. People toward the front of the vault held onto the door to keep it from opening.

“Maybe this thing is not going to hold up,” Dempsey remembered thinking. Finally, debris landed in front of the door and kept it from opening farther.

Although the tornado lasted only a few minutes, the devastation was complete. Dempsey and the others scrambled out of the vault to a scene of pure destruction. The bank around them was gone. Piles of debris and automobiles lay around them.The pickup truck he’d parked out front was now in the back of the bank, sandwiched between two cars and completely demolished.

The tornado re-parked Dempsey's 2006 Chevy Colorado from the front of the credit union to the back, and wedged it between two cars.

“There could have been hundred dollar bills all over the place and I wouldn’t have even paid attention,” said Dempsey. He knew his children and wife were out of harm’s way at other locations, but he didn’t know about his house or dog.

A stranger offered Dempsey a ride back to his house. He breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching his neighborhood and seeing minimal damage, even though his home was located no more than a mile from where the tornado hit.

He found his Dalmatian scared, but uninjured.

“I’ve lived here in Oklahoma most of my life and have dodged tornadoes on several occasions, and I’ve often mentioned to my friends in the past when is my number going to come up?” recalled Dempsey. “I’ve been through thetornado drill many times, but nothing like this, never a direct hit.”

“I’m all right,” he said. “Just the loss of life is the bad part, especially the children.”