Irishman Paul Downes was in Oklahoma on Monday, May 21 when the historic tornado hit that claimed 24 lives. Thankfully, Downes was in another town covering a separate storm, but rushed to the disaster area soon after to help.

Downes, a native of Westmeath, is a meteorologist student at the University of Oklahoma and often drives through the now devastated suburb of Moore on most days.

Speaking with the Irish Daily Star, Downes shared his experiences from Monday May 21: “We were at a different storm in the area when we saw the tornado going down on the radar. It was catastrophic.”

“If I had been on campus I would have dropped everything to be there. I know some people who were, and witnessed the horror of it.”

Downes said, “Watching a tornado drop in the middle of an open field is one thing, but seeing it destroy an entire neighbourhood is entirely different. Seeing the walking wounded, dazed and lost trying to find their family and friends is difficult.”

“It tossed trucks like confetti and tore engines out of cars,” said Downes of the unprecedented strength of the tornado.

As soon as he could, Downes rushed to Moore to help. “I packed up my truck, bought as much supplies as I could afford and signed up.” Downes has been driving around what remains of Moore passing out diapers, baby food and water.

“Some people just got out in time but all their possessions are gone,” said Downes of the destruction.

“The little things have the most impact, like seeing bits of children’s clothing caught in trees.”

Here’s a video from The Guardian that covers the devastation that Moore is experiencing: 

A massive tornado destroyed the suburb of Moore, OklahomaGoogle Images