Remembering the Picher tornado 5 years after deadly EF-4 tornado tears through town

PICHER, Okla. - Friday marks five years since a deadly tornado tore through Picher, Okla.

Unlike many towns, the Ottawa County town never had the chance to rebuild.

The EF-4 tornado claimed six lives and 20 blocks of the small town sustained extensive damage.

Before the tornado the town was already struggling.  Dangerous levels of zinc and lead were present after years of mining.

For that reason, residents were not allowed to rebuild after nature stepped in.

The tornado sped up the end for Pitcher and the town officially closed in September 2009.

Linda Jones, a Red Cross volunteer from Tulsa, says she noticed a lot of damage from what's known as "chat," the hazardous waste from mining.

"The chat hills, you could see where that had just gone all over," she said.  "The houses were totally ... the ones that were affected by it maybe had one wall standing."

The Red cross estimates they helped about 450 people in the wake of the tornado.

Amazingly, there is still one business and about eight families who still call Picher home.

PHOTO GALLERY: Picher after the tornado (

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