Part of complete coverage on
When the tornado hit, they were ready
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 2252 GMT (0652 HKT)
- A trio of CNN Heroes are helping the recovery efforts in Moore, Oklahoma
- Tad Agoglia and his group brought specialized equipment to dig through the rubble
- Wilma Melville's organization provided search dogs to look for survivors
- Jake Wood has mobilized a team of military veterans to help families rebuild
(CNN) -- When an EF5 tornado touched down in Moore, Oklahoma, this week, Tad Agoglia and his First Response Team of America were stationed at a hotel about 30 miles away, ready to take action.
About two hours after the storm hit, they were already on the scene using their specialized equipment to dig through the rubble at Plaza Towers Elementary School.
"We were digging up an area of the school we thought there could be some young children trapped," said Agoglia, a 2008 CNN Hero. "Seeing the desks, pieces of paper children had written on, it just stopped me in my tracks, and it reminded me of why I do what I do every day."
In the last six years, Agoglia's group has responded to more than 50 large-scale disasters, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy in New York. The group owns cranes to lift heavy debris, and it has plasma cutters that can slice through steel beams and concrete.
Agoglia said that when he and his team arrived in Moore, they knew immediately that there would be an enormous need. They plan to stay and help as many people as they can over the next several weeks before hurricane season gets into full swing.
CNN Heroes update: Tad Agoglia
CNN Hero: Wilma Melville
CNN Hero: Jake Wood
Another group founded by a CNN Hero, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, has also been helping in the recovery efforts. It mobilized 10 teams of dogs and their handlers to search for survivors buried in the rubble.
"This tornado showed us nature's rage at its worst," said Wilma Melville, a 2011 CNN Hero. She said her team "specifically placed four teams in Oklahoma City and four in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so that they would be near areas of anticipated tornado activity. Speedy search capability is a wonderful asset."
The teams searched schools, homes and a bowling alley leveled by the storm, which led one handler to text when he arrived on scene: "Devastation. Near tears."
Also helping out is Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans who work together to help communities hit by natural disasters. Founded by 2012 CNN Hero Jake Wood, it has 30 members on the ground now and is mobilizing hundreds more from across the country.
"This is every bit as bad as Joplin," said Wood, referring to the Missouri tornado from May 2011. "Many of our volunteers were at Joplin almost exactly two years ago, and many of us thought we'd never see that level of destruction again."
Larger crews will arrive in Moore on Saturday to help with recovery efforts, including cleaning up debris and fixing homes. Wood anticipates having about 250 veterans helping over the next several weeks.
Want to get involved? Click here to find out ways you can help the victims in Moore.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 0303 GMT (1103 HKT)
Chad Pregracke, who has dedicated his life to cleaning the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways, is the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 0256 GMT (1056 HKT)
CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke pledged to give $10,000 of his winnings to each of the other top 10 Heroes.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
Celebrities joined CNN in New York to honor this year's top 10 Heroes.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
They clean up rivers, build homes for disabled veterans and bring health care to some of the darkest parts of the world.
October 16, 2013 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
It was supposed to be a routine patrol in Iraq. But when the Humvee he was in veered slightly off the road, Dale Beatty's life changed forever.
November 3, 2013 -- Updated 2346 GMT (0746 HKT)
Dr. George Bwelle travels through Cameroon's jungles to provide free medical care for thousands.
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
Many Americans lack easy access to fresh, healthy food. That isn't acceptable to Robin Emmons.
October 28, 2013 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Foster children don't often get the things that other children do, but one group is trying to help change that.
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 2325 GMT (0725 HKT)
For many people, the violence in Camden, New Jersey, can make it feel more like a war zone than an American city.
November 13, 2013 -- Updated 2144 GMT (0544 HKT)
For many children fighting cancer, it can be extremely tough to make their chemotherapy appointments.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 0047 GMT (0847 HKT)
When Kakenya Ntaiya was 14, she negotiated a deal with her father: I'll endure female circumcision if you let me finish high school.
November 18, 2013 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Chad Pregracke has made it his life's mission to clean up the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Estella Pyfrom noticed that fewer students had access to a computer after school. So she bought a bus and brought technology to the kids.
October 13, 2013 -- Updated 2339 GMT (0739 HKT)
In many countries, mothers are dying during childbirth -- not because they lack skilled doctors, but because they lack reliable electricity.