Rep. Tom Cole talks hometown devastation in Moore, Okla., lack of school safe rooms

(CBS News) Plaza Towers Elementary School was unrecognizable to longtime resident Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., when he recently visited the building, demolished in the EF-5 tornado. Cole, a resident of Moore, Okla., for 53 years, took care of the grounds while he was in college and visited the school -- a polling place -- often.

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"I've been there a million times," he said. "I literally couldn't recognize it. I mean, the damage, you couldn't tell it was a school building. You lose your bearings in the streets around it, as bad as the building was, the houses were every bit as destroyed. So it's pretty devastating to look at, and sadly it's a scene we're pretty familiar with in this community, it's not our first tornado."


The school, which has been described as ground zero in the storm, did not have safe rooms for shelter. Cole told "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell that's because the school is an old facility. He said new schools are built with the rooms. "It still was ... the strongest building in the area," he said. "I mean, it's the place you would have gone, honestly. So everybody made the right decisions. So I think it's something the legislature will look at and local people will certainly look at and normally, again, it would have been a fairly secure location, but when you've got an (E)F-5 above ground ... there really isn't a good location."

Pressed if there should be shelters at public schools, Cole said, "That's something to look at. Each area is different. Building underground here is pretty tough. Most houses here don't have basements, now a lot of them have safe rooms or will have underground shelters, but full grown underground facilities are tough. Again, I think your point is well-taken, obviously and tragically made a couple days ago here."

For more with Cole, watch his full "CTM" interview above.

  • Amanda Cochran

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