Five Years Later: Picher is Ghost Town

May 9, 2013

A Red Cross worker talks with a Picher tornado victim.
Credit Red Cross-Tulsa

Picher, Oklahoma, today is a ghost town. Five years ago, it was a community is turmoil.

Abandoned mine shafts dot the landscape and piles of contaminated chat surround the town. The federal government was in the process of buying out the town's residents when an E-F 4 tornado leveled the community. Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of that tornado.

Tulsa Red Cross volunteer Linda Jones remembers rolling into the Ottawa County town in the Red Cross disaster van.

LINDA JONES: " We saw cars up in trees and everything intertwined, you know. We saw things stuck in places where you know it came from miles away."

The tornado, with winds of 175 mph or more, slammed head-on into one of the chat piles. As the tornado ripped away houses, Jones says it pepper people with a fine gravel.

LINDA JONES: "Some people were not hurt all that bad, but their skin was raw after being hit by all that chat. There was a lot of debris from those hills (chat piles)."

Picher did not rebuild. The twister hastened the community's transition into a ghost town. Six people died in the tornado.