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Coach barely escapes deadly tornadoes — twice

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Until Monday, the closest brush Marcus Moeller had had with a killer tornado came when he moved out of Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011 — just hours before a twister ripped through the city, claiming 161 lives.

On Monday, the 27-year-old college basketball coach found himself in an even closer call: huddled in an underground shelter in Moore, Okla., as another deadly funnel cloud ravaged his new hometown, killing at least 24 and injuring hundreds.

"It got louder and louder. You could feel the electricity," said Mr. Moeller, an assistant women's basketball coach and assistant athletic director at Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City.

"The size of it is overwhelming," Mr. Moeller said of the tornado.

The tornado came down just a half-mile from the campus where he works — a little too close for the coach who had narrowly avoided being caught up in a similar storm just two years earlier.

"The odds of that are incredible. I'm definitely thanking the Lord," he said.

He and his colleagues at the university saw the storm clouds grow darker as they watched through the window of a conference room, where they had convened for a meeting before seeking refuge in a large underground shelter built by the university.

In the aftermath of the twister, the people of Moore have begun to turn their efforts from search-and-rescue to clean-up and recovery.

Federal officials, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet A. Napolitano, were on the scene Wednesday, and President Obama is expected to visit the city and tour the damage in the coming days.

Moore, like much of Oklahoma, lies in what is dubbed "Tornado Alley," a swath of the Midwest stretching from Texas as far north as Minnesota and South Dakota. The people in the area are as well-acquainted with and prepared for tornadoes as perhaps anyone in the world.

But no matter how ready you are, Mr. Moeller said, nature eventually takes control of the situation.

"The truth of the matter is, if you've done the work [to prepare], at some point you just have to gather your family, pray and do what you're supposed to do. You're kind of at the mercy of what happens," he said.

As awesome as the storm was, Mr. Moeller said he has been more impressed by how the people of Moore are dealing with the tragedy.

In fact, it reminds him of the people of Joplin.

"The type of people, the resiliency they show, we're talking about very similar types of people," he said. "It's quite inspiring when you look at the resolve of the people."

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