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Archive for: May 2011

Wildcats take on new look in spring practices

This year’s Wildcat football spring practice has a new look to it. With Coach Craig Church instituting the hurry-up spread offense and the 4-3 defense, practice is more about teaching new things this year.

“A lot of what we are doing right now is installing a new offense and defense,” Church said. “We have to teach a new numbering, wording, and new signals. So, there is a lot of teaching going on.”

Church said that the practices have been fast paced and the kids are getting better at recognizing the signals.

“During practice, we go hard for an hour and then restart things for the last hour,” Church explained. “We also alternate days, offense then defense. We think the kids are buying into what we’re doing.”

Church went on to say  the player’s effort in the three practice days has been great.

“These guys are showing some real physical and mental toughness,” Church said. “Some of our guys are playing timid, right now, but that’s because they’re trying to learn what we do and don’t want to make mistakes.

“We have some real playmakers on this team. We’re a little thin up front, but every team is. We have a lot of good young guys, and I really think we’re going to have some good senior leadership next year.”

“I like (Coach Church’s system) because it’s easy to learn and it’s the spread,” Austin Ray said. Ray is going to be a senior next season and plays wide receiver and defensive back. “(The system) is fast paced, so we’re going to get a lot of plays in.

“As a whole, I think the team is starting to get a good grasp of things. (Coach Church) makes it pretty easy to understand. I really think we’re doing well for where we are.”

About half of the practice is spent in position groups, and the other half is spent in offense against defense drills.

The receiving corps is being asked to run a wider variety of routes out of a larger number of packages. They spend time with a position coach going through the various packages before meeting back up with the quaterbacks and running backs to execute the plays they were just running through.

A large emphasis has also been placed on hand offs and reading defenses. The running backs spent most of a practice last week working on hand offs and reading the first defender. While it might seem like a monotonous task, those little things mean everything during the game.

The lineman have a new, often unseen, responsibility. Instead of being a largely run-blocking focused line, they now have focused more on pass blocking. Instead of opening holes for shifty backs, the line now has to focus more on keeping defenses away from the quarterback. The faster paced Wildcat offense will also force the linemen to get to the line quicker than they may have in past seasons.

While next season’s to-do list might seem incredibly long, the Wildcats should be up to the task. Get a first look at the new look Wildcats this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Stout Field.

Female Athlete of the Year: Ashlee Hankins

Ashlee Hankins played third base for Piedmont but will play in the outfield for OBU.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Through a reader poll, one female and one male Piedmont High School student-athlete was awarded Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 school year.

Ashlee Hankins has been one of the faces of Piedmont softball for the past four years. After all those years in blue and yellow, Hankins will be playing for Oklahoma Baptist University next year in green and gold.

“My favorite memory of Piedmont is going to state all four years,” Hankins said. “I got to be around a great group of girls all four years I was here.”

In her senior season with the Lady Wildcats, Hankins had a .449 batting average, 54 stolen bases, and a .590 on base percentage.

“You have to work hard, even if you don’t play,” Hankins said when asked what lesson she can pass down to her teammates. Hankins didn’t play her sophomore year and had to work much harder than before to prove that she should be on the field. She proved that she deserved it by spending time with a hitting coach and working hard on all aspects of her game. “You have to step up and prove you can play. Don’t give up.”

Hankins will always remember the advice coaches Rick Scott and Walter Starry always said. ‘Be good enough that they have to play you.’

By signing to play at OBU in December, Hankins became the eleventh Lady Wildcat to play at the collegiate level.

Hankins has played third base for the Lady Wildcats, but will shift to the outfield next year for the Lady Bison.

“It shouldn’t be a big adjustment for me,” Hankins said. “I play outfield for my summer league team the Jitterbugs.”

Hankins will play with the Oklahoma Jitterbugs summer team again this year.

“I really appreciate all the help and support my coaches have given me over the years,” Hankins said. “Especially Coach Scott, who has been my coach for six years.”

This year, Hankins was named  first team All Conference, first team All Region , honorable mention All State, second team All Conference, Fox 25 scholar athlete of the week, and second team Little All City.

Hankins was also involved in track, prom committee and FCA Leadership. Hankins was on the track team for two years, but only got to run for one year due to injuries. She is the daughter of Jeff and Angela Hankins.

While at OBU, Hankins plans to pursue a career in the veterinary field.

Many offering help in treating, burying animals following storm

Following Tuesday's tornado many horse had to be put down and several animals were injured. This resident tries to get her horse away from a damaged house.

While rescuers this past week have obviously worked hard to assist people affected by Tuesday’s tornado there have also been a large number of animals that were injured or killed by the storm and several organizations are offering assistance.

“Residents can call city hall and give their contact information, name, address and what type of animal and the city can start trying to help them,” Nancy Armstrong, a spokesperson with the city of Piedmont, said. “The animals won’t be moved off the property, so they must be buried there.”

Armstrong also said the city has contacted an organization which, for a charge, can help residents who have lost a large number of livestock due to the storm.

The Piedmont Round-Up Club, a local horse enthusiast organization, is also boarding horses in a facility two miles west of Piedmont. Residents are urged to call Kurt Mayabb at (405) 630-4009 if they need assistance.

“We are also helping bury horses as needed,” Mayabb said. “If any horse owner needs help with their animal, we’ll take care of it.”

Piedmont Animal Health Service and the Piedmont Veterinary Clinic are also doing all they can to help the community’s animals.

“We’ve been swamped since 15 minutes after the storm hit,” Dr. Jarrod Roach said. “All four of our doctors have treating animals in the field and in our offices. We have someone on-call everyday to help.”

Roach said there have been a number of small animals they’ve treated with lacerations and broken bones.

“The best way to dispose of livestock is to contact a livestock removal company,” Roach said. “You’re not technically supposed to bury an animal without permission, due to worries about water sources and such.”

Roach encouraged people to contact the office if there are any animal related problems.

“We have some very experienced receptionists who can give advice over the phone,” Roach said. “We’re more than willing to help at any time. There will always be someone on hand to answer questions.”

“We’ve been doing a lot of work with the city to refer people to animal removal services,” Lori Mayes of Piedmont Animal Health Services said. “Dr. Elizabeth Baca has been out doing calls almost every moment since Tuesday’s storms.”

Mayes said that some community members have stepped up to offer areas to board larger animals. The service center hopes to find additional boarding areas as well.

“A lot of what we can do depends on the severity of the animal’s injury,” Mayes said. “We also encourage people to not only contact us with problems, but the Piedmont Veterinary Clinic as well.”

Mayes went on to say Piedmont Animal Health Services has started a sort of grassroots rescue effort at their clinic.

“I’m a part of an Oklahoma Rescue Girls list,” Mayes explained. “We have a lost and found here, and we do our best to find ways for owners to connect with their lost animals.”

Because of all the lost animals the clinic has received, there is currently a need for animal feeds and other basic animal care goods. The clinic is not currently turning away any lost animals.

“We’ve had some people donate dog and cat food to us, and it’s a great help,” Mayes said. “We’ll accept as much as we can. We are currently rearranging our clinic so that we can accept more animal cages. We are doing all we can to help. A lot of people have lost a lot and we know animals are really important when families have lost a lot. We want to reunite families with their lost animals if at all possible.”

The Piedmont Veterinary Clinic can be contacted at (405) 373-1909 and Piedmont Animal Health Services can be reached at (405) 373-3777. The contact number for Piedmont City Hall is (405) 373-2621.

Dr. Michael Herrin, Assistant State Veterinarian, passed along a few reminders for Piedmont’s residents.

The burial of dead livestock requires the construction of a pit. The pit cannot be located within one foot above the flood plain or within two feet of the water table or bedrock. The pit can also not be located within 300 feet of wells, waters of the state, neighboring residences, public areas or property lines. After placing a carcass in a pit, residents are required to cover it with a minimum of two and a half feet of topsoil. Residents should also routinely check the site to ensure that wild animals are not digging and dragging the carcasses away.

According to Oklahoma Criminal Statues Title 21 O.S. 1222, 1223 or 1224; it is unlawful to bury any carcass in any land along any stream or ravine, where it is liable to become exposed through erosion or is subject to overflow; it is unlawful for any person to leave or deposit the carcass of any animal, chicken or other fowl, in any spring, pond or stream of water, or leave or deposit the same within one fourth mile of any occupied dwelling or of any public highway without burying; and every person who violates these two sections shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

In Canadian County, the OEMA Landfill at Highway 81 and S.W. 29th Street accepts dead livestock. For more information about the landfill, call (405) 262-0161.

Along for the ride: Piedmont woman’s story of survival

Evelyn Deal, 79, was in this chair when a tornado hit her home. she was trapped for an hour before rescuers found her.

When Evelyn Deal looks out on the ruins that was once her house she doesn’t know what to do.

“My whole life is here in this rubble…I don’t know how to start over,” she says through tears. “Everybody tells me I’m strong, but I don’t feel strong. I feel weak. I don’t even know how I survived it.”

Deal, who turns 80 later this year, says she doesn’t feel strong but her story of survival is the proof of her strength. Sitting in her recliner last Tuesday night as a storm approached Piedmont she watched the news until the power went out. She knew the storm was close and in a matter of minutes her house was grabbed by the tornado that eventually hit close to 100 homes in the area.

“When (the tornado) hit me the house picked up and turned and went, they said, about 50 feet,” Deal said. “But I felt a shield around me. I knew God was with me.”

The whole ordeal lasted for a few short minutes but by the time it was over she was trapped under a pile of debris, unable to move. She could hear the cry of one of her cats, Sissy, and Deal spent the next hour trying to tell her cat that everything would be alright. Deal might have been trying to comfort herself, too.

“I think it was about an hour before my first rescuer got here,” Deal said. “He was calling for me and I told him I was here. He told me to keep talking.”

Once Deal’s rescuer reached her, he took the debris off of her and the first thing she did was reach down to feel her cat.

“I could reach down and touch my kitty but we couldn’t get her out,” she said.

Evelyn Deal, 79, looks over the destruction of her home. she had lived in this house for 60 years before the May 24 tornado.

Deal was taken to an area hospital where she was treated for a scratch on her head and sore leg, but she worried that she would never see her four cats again. The next day a relative heard the cries of a cat as he was going through the rubble and was able to retrieve Sissy. Another cat was also rescued with two others still lost.

With just the clothes on her back and her cats, Deal feels blessed. She still doesn’t know what she will do but she has a feeling that God was looking after her.

“I’m not going to rebuild out here, I think this is God telling me I need to do something different,” she said.

Deal had lived in her house for 60 years with her husband, who passed away four years ago.

“I think I am too tired to start over,” Deal says. “But God granted me my life and my three cats, I think he has plans for me.”

Fire chief loses house in storm, feels blessed to be alive

Piedmont Fire Chief Andy Logan lost his house in Tuesday's tornado but said his family was safe in his storm shelter.

Piedmont Fire Chief Andy Logan is used to heading into a disaster to help save lives but on Tuesday night the disaster came to him as his entire house was wiped away in the tornado that damaged and destroyed nearly 100 houses in north Piedmont.

“We were in the (storm) shelter,” Logan said. “My wife was at work, so I had my two children, my mother and my neighbors and their two kids with us.”

Logan said he was in the storm shelter for nearly 15 minutes before the storm hit, which lasted a short while before the sounds outside began to calm. Logan told his family to wait inside the shelter while he checked outside and found his house lying in a pile of rubble.

“I took a look around and I came back in and said ‘it’s all gone, everything is gone,’” he said. “I expected to have a wall, or something. But it’s just stuff.”

The Logan family had lived in the house for 10 years before it was taken in the tornado, but Logan said he still feels fortunate.

“No injuries, everyone is fine, we are very blessed,” Logan said. “We are blessed. We are alive and we are healthy. There is tremendous tragedy not two miles from here.”

Further north the Falcon Lake subdivision was destroyed by the same tornado and two young children lost their lives.

As fire chief, Logan said he was eager to get into town and help with the search and rescue but knew he had to take care of his family. A fire engine arrived at the scene and the fire fighters assured Logan they would handle the situation.

“As the fire chief I got out and I knew my family was safe and I began to try and run the event,” Logan said. “But I very quickly realized that I was not going to be able to do that. (I told my crew) you guys are going to have to take this, I can’t do this. I had to detach myself, and I honestly do feel very bad about the fact that I couldn’t be more help, but I had to be here.”

In addition to the house, Logan’s city-owned fire chief vehicle was also totaled in the storm.

While Logan feels blessed despite losing most of his possessions, he was happy to find one thing in the rubble on Thursday.

“One of my little girl’s stuffed animals was one thing that was gone and we just found it,” Logan said.

Community rallies around tornado victims, relief funds setup

Workers from Great White Energy cooked food for rescue workers on Wednesday in the parking lot of the Piedmont fire department.

The concern and generosity of people in the community wanting to help Tuesday’s tornado victims has spilled out all over Piedmont as volunteers have descended on the town to help with everything from donations of clothes and toiletries to cooking up hamburgers for rescue workers.

The Piedmont First Baptist Church has become a shelter for the Red Cross where victims can find a place to sleep and eat. Donations have been coming in such a large quantity that the church asked Surrey Hills Baptist Church to accept donations.

At Surrey Hills Baptist Church victims of the tornado are able to get toiletries, clothing and other personal items that have been donated.

“Right now we are open for victims to come in and shop,” Valerie Voudreaux, a donations coordinator at the church, said. “We are waiting to hear (from Piedmont) about what more they need.”

So many donations have been coming in that the church is asking for people to now make monetary donations. However, there are a few items that continue to be needed, such as tubs and batteries.

“We’ve had three families come in for things,” Voudreaux said on Wednesday. “There have also been people from El Reno that don’t have transportation to come out here and have friends coming out to pick stuff up.”

Norman Wagoner, a worker with the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief organization, which is setup at the Baptist church in Piedmont, said his organization is always prepared to travel to disaster areas across the state.

“(The church) invited us here to feed and prepare food for Red Cross to take out to the victims,” Wagoner said. “We come here with this command center to coordinate all of our relief efforts.”

In addition to the Baptist church, meals were also being prepared by a team of people from Great White Energy of Oklahoma City. The crew had setup a grill in the parking lot of the Piedmont fire station and was offering grilled foods to rescue workers and victims.

“We’ve cooked a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs and carried them down to the search sites,” Charlie Rumble, a director with Great White, said. “One of the local (pastors) just came by and I think he is going to send a lot of people by and we are going to feed them.”

A number of disaster relief funds have also been set up for tornado victims at the F&M Bank in Piedmont.

“The Chamber has set up a general relief fund, which has already received a number of donations,” Eric Anderson, senior vice president of F&M Bank, said. “The fund is titled ‘Piedmont Chamber of Commerce for the Benefit of Tornado Victims.’ Those wishing to donate would make their checks out to the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce and make a note on the check that it is for the tornado relief fund.”

Anderson said that he has made the recommendation that the chamber wait to disperse the funds until they have a directive from the mayor. After the directive is received, the chamber will likely distribute the money to another organization, such as the Red Cross or United Way, to disperse the funds to individuals.

“The relief fund was established on Wednesday morning,” Anderson said. “The chamber is a 501C6, so the donations may be tax deductible.”

Anderson also said a number of individual funds have been set up as well. A fund for the fire department has been established for the three families, including Chief Andy Logan.

A Facebook page has been established called ‘Stone Ridge Kids Helping Wildcat Families’ which hopes to address the specific needs of affected families. The organizers of the page urges residents to donate gift cards, as the families are now forced to eat out every meal, and gas cards to the disaster victims.

Those wishing to make donations to the specific families are urged to ‘Like’ the Facebook page and contact Judy Richards by email, judy-richards@hotmail.com.

Greg Evans also contributed to this story.

Ryan Hamil’s body found in Piedmont lake

Rescue workers found the body of Ryan Hamil, 3, on Thursday morning about four feet off the west shoreline of Falcon Lake in Piedmont.

Rescue workers found the body of Ryan Hamil, 3, on Thursday morning about four feet off the west shoreline of Falcon Lake in Piedmont.

Hamil had been missing since his home was destroyed in a tornado Tuesday evening. Hamil’s 16-month-old brother Ryan had died the day before from injuries suffered in the storm. The mother of the two boys also remains hospitalized and family members say she is in fair condition after two surgeries.

Law enforcement officials held a press conference on Thursday morning to announce that they had found Ryan. A team of K-9 search and rescue dogs had been searching for Ryan’s body for the past two days before finding him in the lake. It was believed that the current had brought his body to the shore overnight.

“We did locate our 10th victim,” Cpt. Chris West of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said in reference to the total amount of deaths throughout the state from Tuesday’s storm.

West said Ryan’s body was located around 7:15 a.m. and a medical examiner was called. The Hamil family, including Hank Hamil, Ryan’s father, gathered at the lake shortly after and West said it was a very emotional time.

Hamil family.

“I lost both my boys,” Hank said through tears at the press conference. “(Ryan) was my little buddy…I loved them both.”

Hamil also offered thanks to the many rescue workers that had been working in Piedmont since the storm. Teams from as far away as Texas and Kansas were in town and one crew had come directly from Joplin.

Debra Hamil, the grandmother to Ryan and Cole, said the boy’s mother was recovering in a hospital and was doing better.

“Everything looks like she is going to be okay,” she said. “She had two serious surgeries last night.”

A fund has also been established for the Hamil family. As of Thursday afternoon it had already raised $19,000. A link to the fund website can be found here.

Lt. Gov. Lamb tours tornado damage in Piedmont

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb visited Piedmont on Wednesday afternoon, touring the damage left by Tuesday’s tornado.

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb visited Piedmont on Wednesday afternoon. He toured down Mustang Rd. and Ash Rd.

“Governor Fallin has declared a State of Emergency for the counties affected by the Tuesday night’s storms,” Lamb said. “Canadian County suffered the most deaths and our hearts and prayers go out to the families.”

Lamb also explained that the state will be ‘all hands on deck’ as they work to help the affected communities. The Red Cross has set up a shelter in conjunction with Piedmont First Baptist Church.

“In a State of Emergency,” Lamb explained, “counties will have more emergency-related expenses. The State of Emergency allows them to have more freedom to make those purchases to help the citizens.”

Lamb said Governor Mary Fallin is also visiting the affected areas with the hope of finding what more the state can do.

“Oklahoma citizens respond better than anyone,” Lamb said. “That’s why they call it the Oklahoma Standard. We respond better and with a caring and loving spirit. In situations like this, it’s all neighbors, friends, and citizens helping one another and Piedmont is a shining example of that today.”

One of the stops on Lamb’s tour was the home of David Thionett.

“We lost everything,” Thionett said. “If we hadn’t of went to our friend’s shelter, I don’t know. We lost barns and both of our horses. We’re just thankful that our family is still here.”

“(The State of Oklahoma) has dealt with a number of natural disasters,” Lamb said. “And that means we’ve continued to get good practice and our response and recovery time is always improving.”

Piedmont football’s spring game has been canceled

Thursday evening’s spring football game has been canceled, Piedmont Athletic Director Tom Ewing announced on Wednesday.

“(Coach Craig Church and I) determined (Wednesday) afternoon to call off the scrimmage,” Ewing said. “We  debated on what to do and decided there was a better way to spend our time. Coach Church is contacting his kids and is going to try and find a way for the kids to be a service to the community. We think it’s more important to get the kids together and go help somebody.”

One confirmed dead in Piedmont as search for child continues

Emergency crews continue to search for missing 3-year-old Ryan Hamil

Piedmont’s first fatality due to Tuesday’s tornado has been confirmed as a 16-month-old child has died, according to Cherokee Ballard, spokesperson with the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office.

Emergency crews continue to search for missing 3-year-old Ryan Hamil, the brother of the deceased child, who was last seen in the Falcon Lake Subdivision in north Piedmont Tuesday.

“Right now, we have K-9 teams on the ground searching for the child,” Mayor Valerie Thomerson said. “We also have people from Pottawami County, the Oklahoma Military and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol out looking for the child. We have no news yet on the child we’re looking for. All efforts are being made to find the missing child. We’re very hopeful that the child comes back.”

Two other siblings of Hamil remain hospitalized and the children’s mother is also in critical condition and may require surgery, a family member confirmed.

As emergency crews continue to search for the missing child, police are also working to cut down on looting. Thomerson said that there has already been a looting arrest and a vehicle impounded.

“We’re doing everything in our power to stop (looting),” Thomerson said, “and protect our community and the people in it.”

The Piedmont Police Department is also making a concerted effort to keep construction companies from interfering with the affected families.

“(The city) is trying to field calls from construction crews right now,” Thomerson said. “There are a lot of crews that are not following our city’s licensure procedures. Those procedures were put in place to protect our home owners and ensure that Piedmont families get the full value of their home-owner’s insurance. Residents should alert the police department if they see any construction crews out amongst the affected areas.”

Thomerson went on to say that the assessment phase is one of the most vital phases for these families.

As of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, there have been six confirmed injuries. Three of which visited the fire station overnight for help.

“The Oklahoma Health Department is on the ground going to the hardest hit areas,” Thomerson said. “They are giving tetanus shots on site, so the victims don’t have to come to us.”

The city is also working on a plan to eliminate the animal carcasses which are in the path of the storm.

“Our citizens were able to get to a safe place because of our sirens going off so soon,” Thomerson said. “And our community was aware of the safety procedures and took cover.”

According to Emergency Management, between 75 to 100 Piedmont homes have been affected by the storm, with damage ranging from minor roof damage to homes being gone.

Greg Evans also contributed to this story.

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