As they watched video footage and heard reports of the devastation left in the wake of recent Oklahoma tornadoes, many local residents knew they needed to take action.

As they watched video footage and heard reports of the devastation left in the wake of recent Oklahoma tornadoes, many local residents knew they needed to take action.

Figures were coming out — an EF4 tornado that struck Moore, Okla., destroyed 4,000 homes and businesses along a 17-mile path, cost about $2 billion in damage and left 24 dead. More damage was being reported in other surrounding towns.

The hearts of McPherson residents went out to these Midwestern neighbors, and they could not sit still.
For Meggan Koening, it was an act of reciprocity.

"I think for me, part of the reason I wanted to go down there was, if it was my own home, I would want people to come and help me," she said. "I think that shows how a lot of people are. If they have been helped when they have a tragedy, they want to give back and help also."

Koening drove south to Moore, Okla. with her husband Tyson, mother and step-father Kim and Jeff Snyder, and about a dozen others.

"We didn't know where we'd be or how we'd get in, but we decided to have faith we'd be placed in the spot where we were supposed to be," Meggan said.

As they drove through the city, she said they were amazed at the damage.

"We drove by a park, and you couldn't even tell it was a park to begin with," she said. "It just kept getting worse and worse."

Oklahoma's emergency agency estimated the damage in Moore is at least half as much as the tornado in Joplin, Mo., two years ago. If this is true, the Associated Press estimates the debris pile would cover an NBA-sized basketball court to a depth of 1.7 miles.

As the McPherson group worked in the city, they were encouraged by the volunteers who came from all over the U.S. to begin cleanup.

"That was neat to see," she said. "Even the people that live in that neighborhood were helping and working."

Marc Robertson and his family chose to volunteer their time in Shawnee, Okla., a town about 40 miles east of Moore. Robertson is an El Rino, Okla., native and felt pulled to the area, especially as he knew Moore was getting a lot of attention already.

"I just had a very heavy heart about it because it's the second time that area has been hit since 1999," he said. "Going down and seeing a little bit of the devastation is very humbling. It changes your perspective and gives you a better view of what the need actually was."

The family hauled a 6- by12-foot trailer that was 70 percent full of donated clothes, water, food and other supplies. Robertson said the town was in many ways an overflow area for supplies, as Moore had an influx and directed supplies to more rural areas.

"It was pretty upbeat as far as the volunteers go," he said. "You could tell they were exhausted, but they knew there was a job that needed to be done, and they wanted to meet that need."

For example, the family was handing out food to one tornado victim and asked her what she wanted.

The lady responded by saying that as long as it was edible, they would take it.

"They were thankful and humbled that the outpour of help was so great," he said. "Just looking at some of them and visiting with them, you got the impression that the full scope of what was going on hadn't quite set in yet."

Annie and George Henry went with Free Methodist Churches in McPherson and Wichita to Carney, Okla., a small, rural town northeast of Oklahoma City. They helped several families and took their stories home with them.

One home was lifted off its foundation, and its contents blown into a row of trees nearby. A main item the mother wanted to find was her sixth-grade son's iPad that he had purchased only days ago with money he had saved up himself. It was found but was broken.

"I knew there was a purpose for us going," Annie said. "I felt like we were called to do it, like God had told us to do it."

Other stories the group heard included a story about a dog that had stayed alive by taking shelter in an oven. Another family was taking shelter. There was not enough room for the father in his wheelchair, but he was spared when the house collapsed in an "A" shape just above his head.

The Henrys took their 7- and 9-year-old children and were glad they could see everything firsthand.

"I think it was a good experience for our kids," Annie said. "When you're down there and you pick up a piece of trash and you look around, it just seems so minimal. But it was a good experience, and having to do it over again, I would do it."

Forecasters say the risk of severe weather will persist throughout this week, with severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes possible today in the central U.S.

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel