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Pets, photos are precious finds in tornado recovery

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Pages across social media have began to reconnect tornado survivors with their lost pets. (Source: Facebook) Pages across social media have began to reconnect tornado survivors with their lost pets. (Source: Facebook)

MOORE, OK (RNN) - The Oklahoma tornadoes displaced families and destroyed homes, but another facet of the tragedy saw hundreds of people separated from pets and searching in vain for family photos.

The tornadoes that hit Shawnee, OK and Moore, OK leveled homes were powerful enough to flatten trees and demolish brick buildings, and photos borne by the high winds have been found 100 to 200 miles away from Moore. Likewise hundreds of people have sifted through the rubble, looking for lost pets.

In another facet of the recovery, Oklahomans are using social media to locate missing pets and memories.

Facebook pages have been set up where storm survivors can search for their four-legged loved ones. A Google document allows survivors to fill out a form describing their pet and submit it to an online database started by University of Oklahoma student Liz Epely.

"I may not have the ability to help on the ground. I don't have that skill set, but this is something that needed to be done and so I did it," said Epely. "I want to do whatever I can to help, and this is something I can do."

A blog called OKC Metro Area Lost and Found Pets has been established as the "virtual bulletin board" and states it's the official site of the city of Oklahoma City and Moore.

"My cat was lost in the trailer park during the tornado last night," pet owner Courtney Myers wrote on the Pet Owner Resources Center's Facebook page. "His name is 'Mr.' or 'Buddy,' we call him both. I'm hoping beyond hope that he survived. Please contact me if you have seen him."

Many of the lost animals aren't just dogs and cats. On the Facebook pages, people are recovering pet birds, horses, donkeys and even  snakes.

"Oklahoma has a huge rescue community and we all work together and with the city shelters," said Cheryl Melton, assistant administrator of the Pet Owners Resource Center Facebook page. "This has been the worst devastation, yet the best organization of all involved in the search, rescue and recovery of families and their pets."

Melton, who is the VP/Western area director of the Forever Friends Humane Society in Oklahoma City, said animal groups are working with others in the area like the Animal Resource Center to rescue animals. The Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma City is donating food to the ARC for the displaced animals and their owners.

Many photos have been taken of storm survivors rescuing animals that survived the tornado. There was a special moment captured on television Tuesday when an elderly woman found her dog covered in the rubble of her home as she spoke to a reporter about finding him.

Another larger Facebook group is dedicated to the recovery of lost family photographs amid the rubble and debris of the EF-5 tornado.

The discovered photos tell the story of homes and memories ripped away. Many of the photos include graduation pictures, daughters as ballerinas, pictures of kids' birthday parties and young families.

On one Facebook post, the back of a photo reads, "Richard Farrell Graham - 1967." The post says, "Found on May 21, [on] SE Sax and Fox in Stoud, OK. We would love to get this back to whoever it belongs to. Please let me know if it's yours!"

The new Facebook pages popping up as residents return to their demolished neighborhoods.

These animal rescue efforts aren't the first of their kind online. Whenever there are natural disasters, many citizens and animal lovers take to social media and websites to snap pictures of scared animals and scattered pictures, hoping that someone recognizes them.

The Oklahoman is also creating a list of places where pet owners can begin recovering their lost animals. The list also includes other resources for storm victims and survivors.

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