Brandi Broaddus recalls that she was listening to music when she looked outside at the sky and got an ominous feeling. After turning on the news and seeing a tornado warning posted for Moore, Oklahoma, she jumped in her car and drove to a friend’s house 5 miles away.
“It sounded like someone throwing rocks at my car. That was when the hail started. I could see the wall cloud,” she said.
When she returned, her home, her first major purchase after college, was gone.
Just seeing it covered in rainwater and mud, it’s just heartbreaking. I lost everything in that tornado; everything except my faith in humanity.- Brandi Broaddus, Moore resident
When she got home the night before, there was a Lowe’s bucket full of relief supplies waiting for her. The next day, employees from Lowe’s of Moore joined the First Response Team of America to help Broaddus start picking up the pieces of her life. “I just want to thank the Lowe’s employees,” she said. “They don’t have to be here today and they’re away from their families helping me. I don’t even know them, so I just want to say thank you. It means the world to me, the absolute world to me.”
The Moore resident was one of hundreds of tornado survivors assisted by Lowe’s Heroes and the First Response Team after two deadly tornado outbreaks in 2013 – the first touching down in May across Oklahoma, Texas and the Midwest followed by an unusually powerful late-season series of twisters that slammed seven states in November. Lowe’s committed $1.25 million to support recovery efforts, and Lowe’s Heroes were on the ground almost immediately to lend a hand.
The EF-5 tornado packing 200-plus mph winds cut a 17-mile-long path of destruction in Moore. While the First Response Team participated in search and rescue operations at Plaza Towers Elementary School, Lowe’s set up assistance centers in store parking lots to provide more than 1,000 hot meals to emergency crews. At the same time, Lowe’s Heroes fanned out into area neighborhoods to donate truckloads of relief supplies to residents in need.
Lowe’s also teamed with NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to host a relief event at Lowe’s of Moore. Joined by NASCAR President Mike Helton, members of the University of Oklahoma football team and Lowe’s employees, Johnson distributed food and supplies and comforted local families.
One of those families, a man and his 7-year-old son dressed head to toe in Team 48 gear, was especially grateful to meet Johnson. “It means everything,” the father said. “We don’t have anything to grab onto and this gives us something.” He then looked down at his son and said, “This just made his year. He needed this.”
Dozens of Lowe’s Heroes went into the hardest-hit communities in Granbury, Texas, to distribute supplies and clean up homes after a tornado in the North Texas town.
A few months later, Lowe’s employees across seven states reached out to help families begin to recover after devastating tornadoes ripped through the Midwest. Lowe’s Heroes delivered thousands of relief supplies to residents and partnered with the First Response Team to clear homesites and comfort residents in Washington, Illinois, where an EF-4 tornado damaged more than 1,000 homes and businesses.
The First Response Team used its heavy equipment to move debris and help homeowners find belongings buried in the rubble. At one home just north of town, they were able to find something special. As they cleared the property, a cat poked its head out. Baccus, the pet of Lindsay DuBois, had been missing for 24 hours. Just before that, they had found her other cat, Naiya – both OK.
“We are forever indebted to the First Response Team,” said Mark DuBois, father of the homeowners. “Without their help, we would have never found the two cats alive under all this debris.”