Surrounded by a huge pile of rubble stands a concrete-encased vault that protected the lives of 14 employees and eight members who were at a Tinker Federal Credit Union branch Monday afternoon when a monstrous tornado ripped through the city of Moore, Okla.
They huddled together in the vault while the violent tornado was obliterating everything around them, including the 6,387-square-foot branch and the cars in the parking lot.
“I wasn’t there, but I know it was extremely loud (inside the vault) and I’m sure it was very scary,” Matt Stratton, vice president of marketing for the $3 billion TFCU, said Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t know yet if the branch was directly in the path of the tornado or on the edge of the path of tornado, but it essentially destroyed the branch and a lot of things around it.”
After the tornado passed, Stratton said first responders arrived “very quickly” at the scene, removed debris that was blocking the vault’s door and helped the people inside the vault push open the door.
The employees and members who had their cars destroyed by the tornado eventually found their way home, Stratton said. But the branch manager stayed at the vault until it could be locked up and secured.
(Click on photo above to see enlarged version.)
The safe deposit boxes in the vault are safe and locked up, and it is under 24/7 security watch,” said Stratton. “We will figure out a way to get members access to their safe deposit boxes, but access to the location is limited right now.”
Once access to the site is allowed by authorities, Stratton said, there will an extensive cleanup process and he expects TFCU will build a new branch at the site.
“I feel certain we will build a new branch there,” Stratton said. “It’s been a very successful location for us, a very popular branch amongst our members.”
Stratton said the tornado also destroyed the homes of four TFCU employees, and an additional 26 employees reported some damage to their homes.
“We’ll be working with those employees over the next few days and weeks,” he said.
Other nearby credit unions – a branch of the $892 million Weokie Credit Union and a branch of the $106 million Oklahoma Educators Credit Union – were farther away from the path of tornado and avoided the major damage. A Credit Union Services Center shared branching office nearby also was not damaged by the tornado.
Two dozen people have been confirmed killed in the tornado, which has been declared an EF5 – the top of the scale – by the National Weather Service and did at least $1 billion in damage on its 17-mile path, Oklahoma insurance officials said
Also from Oklahoma Tornado:
- Loans to Offer Shelter From the Storms
- Ohio, Kansas, California Joins in Relief Effort
- Pen Air FCU Starts Relief Collections
- Redstone Collecting Donations in Alabama
- Manager Tells Tale of Tinker Safe Survival (video)
- Leagues Chip In, Life-Saving Vault Still Inaccessible
- CUNA Mutual Contacts 57 CUs
- NCUA Activates Relief Policy
- Weokie Staff Also Retreated to Vault
- CUNA Mutual Sending Disaster Team
- League, NCUF Assessing Impact
- Tinker Staffers Survive in Safe