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Oklahoma City
State capital
City of Oklahoma City
From top left to clockwise: Downtown skyline, SkyDance Pedestrian Bridge, City Hall, Gold Star Memorial Building, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City National Memorial, state capitol.
From top left to clockwise: Downtown skyline, SkyDance Pedestrian Bridge, City Hall, Gold Star Memorial Building, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City National Memorial, state capitol.
Flag of Oklahoma City
Flag
Official seal of Oklahoma City
Seal
Nickname(s): OKC; The 405. The City; The Big Friendly
Location in Oklahoma County and the state of Oklahoma.
Location in Oklahoma County and the state of Oklahoma.
Country United States
State Oklahoma
Counties Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, Pottawatomie
Founded April 22, 1889
Incorporated July 15, 1890
Area
 • City 620.34 sq mi (1,606.67 km2)
 • Land 601.11 sq mi (1,556.87 km2)
 • Water 19.23 sq mi (49.81 km2)
 • Urban 410.6 sq mi (1,063.5 km2)
Elevation 1,201 ft (366 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 579,999
 • Estimate (2015) 631,346
 • Rank US: 27th
 • Density 934.970/sq mi (360.9945/km2)
 • Urban 861,505 (US: 51st)
 • Metro 1,459,758 (US: 42nd)
Time zone CST (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC−5)
ZIP codes
Area code 405
FIPS code 40-55000
GNIS feature ID 1102140
Website City of Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The county seat of Oklahoma County, the city ranks 27th among United States cities in population. The population grew following the 2010 Census, with the population estimated to have increased to 631,346 as of July 2015. As of 2015, the Oklahoma City metropolitan area had a population of 1,358,452, and the Oklahoma City-Shawnee Combined Statistical Area had a population of 1,459,758 (Chamber of Commerce) residents, making it Oklahoma's largest metropolitan area.

Oklahoma City's city limits extend into Canadian, Cleveland, and Pottawatomie counties, though much of those areas outside of the core Oklahoma County area are suburban or rural (watershed). The city ranks as the eighth-largest city in the United States by land area (including consolidated city-counties; it is the largest city in the United States by land area whose government is not consolidated with that of a county or borough).

Oklahoma City has the largest municipal population of any city in the Great Plains region of the central United States as well as all neighboring states to Oklahoma, excluding Texas.

Lying in the Great Plains region, Oklahoma City features one of the largest livestock markets in the world. Oil, natural gas, petroleum products and related industries are the largest sector of the local economy. The city is situated in the middle of an active oil field and oil derricks dot the capitol grounds. The federal government employs large numbers of workers at Tinker Air Force Base and the United States Department of Transportation's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (these two sites house several offices of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department's Enterprise Service Center, respectively).

Oklahoma City is on the I-35 Corridor, which is one of the primary travel corridors south into neighboring Texas and Mexico and north towards Wichita and Kansas City. Located in the Frontier Country region of the state, the city's northeast section lies in an ecological region known as the Cross Timbers. The city was founded during the Land Run of 1889, and grew to a population of over 10,000 within hours of its founding. The city was the scene of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in which 168 people died. It was the deadliest terror attack in the history of the United States until the attacks of September 11, 2001, and remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Since the time weather records have been kept, Oklahoma City has been struck by thirteen strong tornadoes; eleven of these tornadoes were rated F4 or EF4 on the Fujita and Enhanced Fujita scales, and two were rated F5 or EF5.

History

Oklahoma1885
Map of Indian Territory (Oklahoma) 1889, showing Oklahoma as a train stop on a railroad line. Britannica 9th ed.

Oklahoma City was settled on April 22, 1889, when the area known as the "Unassigned Lands" was opened for settlement in an event known as "The Land Run". Some 10,000 homesteaders settled the area that would become the capital of Oklahoma. The town grew quickly; the population doubled between 1890 and 1900. Early leaders of the development of the city included Anton Classen, John Shartel, Henry Overholser and James W. Maney.

Oklahoma City 1890
Lithograph of Oklahoma City from 1890.

By the time Oklahoma was admitted to the Union in 1907, Oklahoma City had surpassed Guthrie, the territorial capital, as the population center and commercial hub of the new state. Soon after, the capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was a major stop on Route 66 during the early part of the 20th century; it was prominently mentioned in Bobby Troup's 1946 jazz classic, "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66", later made famous by artist Nat King Cole.

Before World War II, Oklahoma City developed major stockyards, attracting jobs and revenue formerly in Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska. With the 1928 discovery of oil within the city limits (including under the State Capitol), Oklahoma City became a major center of oil production. Post-war growth accompanied the construction of the Interstate Highway System, which made Oklahoma City a major interchange as the convergence of I-35, I-40 and I-44. It was also aided by federal development of Tinker Air Force Base.

In 1950, the Census Bureau reported city's population as 8.6% black and 90.7% white.

Patience Latting was elected Mayor of Oklahoma City in 1971, becoming the city's first female mayor. Latting was also the first woman to serve as mayor of a U.S. city with over 350,000 residents.

Oklahoma City National Memorial at Christmas
Oklahoma City National Memorial at Christmas.

As with many other American cities, center city population declined in the 1970s and 1980s as families followed newly constructed highways to move to newer housing in nearby suburbs. Urban renewal projects in the 1970s, including the Pei Plan, removed many older historic structures but failed to spark much new development, leaving the city dotted with vacant lots used for parking. A notable exception was the city's construction of the Myriad Gardens and Crystal Bridge, a botanical garden and modernistic conservatory in the heart of downtown. Architecturally significant historic buildings lost to clearances were the Criterion Theater, the Baum Building, the Hales Building, and the Biltmore Hotel.

In 1993, the city passed a massive redevelopment package known as the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), intended to rebuild the city's core with civic projects to establish more activities and life to downtown. The city added a new baseball park; central library; renovations to the civic center, convention center and fairgrounds; and a water canal in the Bricktown entertainment district. Water taxis transport passengers within the district, adding color and activity along the canal. MAPS has become one of the most successful public-private partnerships undertaken in the U.S., exceeding $3 billion in private investment as of 2010. As a result of MAPS, the population living in downtown housing has exponentially increased, together with demand for additional residential and retail amenities, such as grocery, services, and shops.

Since the MAPS projects' completion, the downtown area has seen continued development. Several downtown buildings are undergoing renovation/restoration. Notable among these was the restoration of the Skirvin Hotel in 2007. The famed First National Center is being renovated.

Residents of Oklahoma City suffered substantial losses on April 19, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb in front of the Murrah building. The building was destroyed (the remnants of which had to be imploded in a controlled demolition later that year), more than 100 nearby buildings suffered severe damage, and 168 people were killed. The site has been commemorated as the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Since its opening in 2000, over three million people have visited. Every year on April 19, survivors, families and friends return to the memorial to read the names of each person lost. On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection.

The "Core-to-Shore" project was created to relocate I-40 one mile (1.6 km) south and replace it with a boulevard to create a landscaped entrance to the city. This also allows the central portion of the city to expand south and connect with the shore of the Oklahoma River. Several elements of "Core to Shore" were included in the MAPS 3 proposal approved by voters in late 2009.

Geography

Oklahoma City Oklahoma
Mid-May 2006 photograph of Oklahoma City taken from the International Space Station (ISS).

Oklahoma City lies along one of the primary corridors into Texas and Mexico, and is a three-hour drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The city is located in the Frontier Country region in the center of the state, making it an ideal location for state government.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 620.34 square miles (1,606.7 km2), of which 601.11 square miles (1,556.9 km2) is land and 19.23 square miles (49.8 km2) is water.

Oklahoma City lies in the Sandstone Hills region of Oklahoma, known for hills of 250 to 400 feet (120 m) and two species of oak: blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica) and post oak (Q. stellata). The northeastern part of the city and its eastern suburbs fall into an ecological region known as the Cross Timbers.

The city is roughly bisected by the North Canadian River (recently renamed the Oklahoma River inside city limits). The North Canadian once had sufficient flow to flood every year, wreaking destruction on surrounding areas, including the central business district and the original Oklahoma City Zoo. In the 1940s, a dam was built on the river to manage the flood control and reduced its level. In the 1990s, as part of the citywide revitalization project known as MAPS, the city built a series of low-water dams, returning water to the portion of the river flowing near downtown. The city has three large lakes: Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser, in the northwestern quarter of the city; and the largest, Lake Stanley Draper, in the sparsely populated far southeast portion of the city.

The population density normally reported for Oklahoma City using the area of its city limits can be misleading. Its urbanized zone covers roughly 244 sq mi (630 km2) resulting in a density of 2,500 per square mile (2013 est), compared with larger rural watershed areas incorporated by the city, which cover the remaining 377 sq mi (980 km2) of the city limits.

Oklahoma City is one of the largest cities in the nation in compliance with the Clean Air Act.

Devon energy center
Devon Energy Center, tallest building in the state.

Tallest buildings

Rank Building Height Floors Built Ref.
1 Devon Energy Center 844 feet (257 m) 50 2012
2 Chase Tower 500 feet (152 m) 36 1971
3 First National Center 446 feet (136 m) 33 1931
4 City Place Tower 440 feet (134 m) 33 1931
5 Oklahoma Tower 434 feet (132 m) 31 1982
6 SandRidge Center 393 feet (120 m) 30 1973
7 Valliance Bank Tower 321 feet (98 m) 22 1984
8 Bank of Oklahoma Plaza 310 feet (94 m) 16 1972
9 AT&T Building 310 feet (94 m) 16 1928
10 Leadership Square North 308 feet (94 m) 22 1984

Neighborhoods

Automobile Alley in Oklahoma City
Automobile Alley in Oklahoma City.
Heartofokc
Looking up in the heart of Oklahoma City's Central Business District.

Oklahoma City neighborhoods are extremely varied; pin-neat affluent historic neighborhoods sit next to districts that have not wholly recovered from economic and social decline of the 1970s and 1980s.

The city is bisected geographically and culturally by the North Canadian River, which basically divides North Oklahoma City and South Oklahoma City. The two-halves of the city were actually founded and plotted as separate cities, but soon grew together. The north side is characterized by very diverse and fashionable urban neighborhoods near the city center and sprawling suburbs further north. South Oklahoma City is generally more blue collar working class and significantly more industrial, having grown up around the Stockyards and meat packing plants at the turn of the century, and is currently the center of the city's rapidly growing Latino community.

Downtown Oklahoma City, which has 7,600 residents, is currently seeing an influx of new private investment and large scale public works projects, which have helped to resuscitate a central business district left almost deserted by the Oil Bust of the early 1980s. The centerpiece of downtown is the newly renovated Crystal Bridge and Myriad Botanical Gardens, one of the few elements of the Pei Plan to be completed. In the next few years a massive new central park will link the gardens near the CBD and the new convention center to be built just south of it to the North Canadian River, as part of a massive works project known as Core to Shore; the new park is part of MAPS3, a collection of civic projects funded by a 1-cent temporary (seven-year) sales tax increase.

Climate

Oklahoma City has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa), with frequent variations in weather daily and seasonally, except during the consistently hot and humid summer months. Prolonged and severe droughts (sometimes leading to wildfires in the vicinity) as well as very heavy rainfall leading to flash flooding and flooding occur with some regularity. Consistent winds, usually from the south or south-southeast during the summer, help temper the hotter weather. Consistent northerly winds during the winter can intensify cold periods. Severe ice storms and snowstorms happen sporadically during the winter.

The average temperature is 61.4 °F (16.3 °C), with the monthly daily average ranging from 39.2 °F (4.0 °C) in January to 83.0 °F (28.3 °C) in July. Extremes range from −17 °F (−27 °C) on February 12, 1899 to 113 °F (45 °C) on August 11, 1936 and August 3, 2012; the last sub-zero (°F) reading was −3 °F (−19 °C) on January 7, 2017. Temperatures reach 100 °F (38 °C) on 10.4 days of the year, 90 °F (32 °C) on nearly 70 days, and fail to rise above freezing on 8.3 days. The city receives about 35.9 inches (91.2 cm) of precipitation annually, of which 8.6 inches (21.8 cm) is snow.

The report Regional Climate Trends and Scenarios for the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) from 2013 by NOAA, projects that parts of the Great Plains region can expect up to 30% (High emissions scenario based on CMIP3 and NARCCAP models) increase in extreme precipitation days by midcentury. This definition is based on days receiving more than one inch of rainfall.

Extreme weather

Oklahoma City has a very active severe weather season from March through June, especially during April and May. Being in the center of what is colloquially referred to as Tornado Alley, it is prone to especially frequent and severe tornadoes, as well as very severe hailstorms and occasional derechoes. Tornadoes have occurred in every month of the year and a secondary smaller peak also occurs during autumn, especially October. The Oklahoma City metropolitan area is one of the most tornado-prone major cities in the world, with about 150 tornadoes striking within the city limits since 1890. Since the time weather records have been kept, Oklahoma City has been struck by thirteen violent tornadoes, eleven F/EF4s and two F/EF5s.

On May 3, 1999, parts of Oklahoma City and surrounding communities were impacted by a tornado. It was the last U.S. tornado to be given a rating of F5 on the Fujita scale before the Enhanced Fujita scale replaced it in 2007. While the tornado was in the vicinity of Bridge Creek to the southwest, wind speeds of 318 mph (510 km/h) were estimated by a mobile Doppler radar, the highest wind speeds ever recorded on Earth. A second top-of-the-scale tornado occurred on May 20, 2013; South Oklahoma City, along with Newcastle and Moore, was hit by an EF5 tornado. The tornado was 0.5 to 1.3 miles (0.80 to 2.09 km) wide and killed 23 people. On May 31, fewer than two weeks after the May 20 event, another outbreak affected the Oklahoma City area. Within Oklahoma City, the system spawned an EF1 and an EF0 tornado, and in El Reno to the west, an EF3 tornado occurred. This lattermost tornado, which was heading in the direction of Oklahoma City before it dissipated, had a width of 2.6 miles (4.2 km), making it the widest tornado ever recorded. Additionally, winds of >295 mph (475 km/h) were measured, one of the two highest wind records for a tornado.

With 19.48 inches (495 mm) of rainfall, May 2015 was by far Oklahoma City's record-wettest month since record keeping began in 1890. Across Oklahoma and Texas generally, there was record flooding in the latter part of the month.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 4,151
1900 10,037 141.8%
1910 64,205 539.7%
1920 91,295 42.2%
1930 185,389 103.1%
1940 204,424 10.3%
1950 243,504 19.1%
1960 324,253 33.2%
1970 368,164 13.5%
1980 404,014 9.7%
1990 444,719 10.1%
2000 506,132 13.8%
2010 579,999 14.6%
Est. 2015 631,346 8.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

According to the 2015 census, the racial composition of Oklahoma City was as follows:

  • White: 53.8% (56.7% Non-Hispanic White)
  • Black or African American: 14.4%
  • Native American: 2.7%
  • Asian: 4.7% (1.7% Vietnamese, 0.7% Indian)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
  • Some other race: 9.4%
  • Two or more races: 5.2%
  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 18.6% (14.2% Mexican, 0.7% Guatemalan)
Race and ethnicity 2010 Oklahoma City
Map of racial distribution in Oklahoma City, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)

As of the 2010 census, there were 579,999 people, 230,233 households, and 144,120 families residing in the city. The population density was 956.4 inhabitants per square mile (321.9/km²). There were 256,930 housing units at an average density of 375.9 per square mile (145.1/km²).

There were 230,233 households, 29.4% of which had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.4% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. One person households account for 30.5% of all households and 8.7% of all households had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.11.

The median income for a household in the city was $48,557 and the median income for a family was $62,527. The per capita income for the city was $26,208. 17.1% of the population and 12.4% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 23.0% of those under the age of 18 and 9.2% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

In the 2000 Census, Oklahoma City's age composition was 25.5% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.7 males.

Oklahoma City has experienced significant population increases since the late 1990s. Since the official Census in 2000, Oklahoma City has grown 25 percent (a 125,214 raw increase) according to the Bureau estimates. The 2015 estimate of 631,346 is the largest population Oklahoma City has ever recorded. It is the first city in the state to record a population greater than 600,000 residents and the largest municipal population of the Great Plains region (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota).

Racial composition 2010 1990 1970 1940
White 62.7% 74.8% 84.0% 90.4%
—Non-Hispanic 56.7% 72.9% 82.2% n/a
Black or African American 15.1% 16.0% 13.7% 9.5%
Native American 3.5% 4.2% 2.0% 0.1%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 17.2% 5.0% 2.0% n/a
Asian 4.0% 2.4% 0.2%

Metropolitan statistical area

Flickr - Nicholas T - Skyline
Old Interstate 40 Crosstown, Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is the principal city of the eight-county Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area in Central Oklahoma and is the state's largest urbanized area. As of 2015, the metropolitan area was the 41st largest in the nation based on population.

Culture

Museums and theaters

Bricktown Canal Water Taxis in Oklahoma City
Water taxis in Oklahoma City's downtown Bricktown neighborhood.

The Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center is the new downtown home for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. The museum features visiting exhibits, original selections from its own collection, a theater showing a variety of foreign, independent, and classic films each week, and a restaurant. OKCMOA is also home to the most comprehensive collection of Chihuly glass in the world including the 55-foot Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower in the Museum's atrium. The art deco Civic Center Music Hall, which was totally renovated in 2001, has performances from the Oklahoma City Ballet, the Oklahoma City Opera, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and also various concerts and traveling Broadway shows.

The Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial
The Survivor Tree on the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Other theaters include Lyric Theatre, Jewel Box Theatre, Kirkpatrick Auditorium, the Poteet Theatre, the Oklahoma City Community College Bruce Owen Theater and the 488-seat Petree Recital Hall, at the Oklahoma City University campus. The university also opened the Wanda L Bass School of Music and auditorium in April 2006.

The Science Museum Oklahoma (formerly Kirkpatrick Science and Air Space Museum at Omniplex) houses exhibits on science, aviation, and an IMAX theater. The museum formerly housed the International Photography Hall of Fame (IPHF) that exhibits photographs and artifacts from a large collection of cameras and other artifacts preserving the history of photography. IPHF honors those who have made significant contributions to the art and/or science of photography and relocated to St. Louis, Missouri in 2013.

The Museum of Osteology houses more than 300 real animal skeletons. Focusing on the form and function of the skeletal system, this 7,000 sq ft (650 m2) museum displays hundreds of skulls and skeletons from all corners of the world. Exhibits include adaptation, locomotion, classification and diversity of the vertebrate kingdom. The Museum of Osteology is the only one of its kind in America.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has galleries of western art and is home to the Hall of Great Western Performers. In contrast, the city will also be home to The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum that began construction in 2009 (although completion of the facility has been held up due to insufficient funding), on the south side of Interstate 40, southeast from Bricktown.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial in the northern part of Oklahoma City's downtown was created as the inscription on its eastern gate of the Memorial reads, "to honor the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were changed forever on April 19, 1995"; the memorial was built on the land formerly occupied by the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building complex prior to its 1995 bombing. The outdoor Symbolic Memorial can be visited 24 hours a day for free, and the adjacent Memorial Museum, located in the former Journal Record building damaged by the bombing, can be entered for a small fee. The site is also home to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a non-partisan, nonprofit think tank devoted to the prevention of terrorism.

The American Banjo Museum located in the Bricktown Entertainment district is dedicated to preserving and promoting the music and heritage of the banjo. Its collection is valued at $3.5 million, and an interpretive exhibit tells the evolution of the banjo from its roots in American slavery, to bluegrass, to folk and to world music.

The Oklahoma History Center is the history museum of the state of Oklahoma. Located across the street from the governor's mansion at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in northeast Oklahoma City, the museum opened in 2005 and is operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. It preserves the history of Oklahoma from the prehistoric to the present day.

Parks and recreation

Hefnersunset
Sunset over Lake Hefner in northwest Oklahoma City.
Myriad Botanical Gardens
Myriad Botanical Gardens, the centerpiece of downtown OKC.

One of the more prominent landmarks downtown is the Crystal Bridge at the Myriad Botanical Gardens, a large downtown urban park. Designed by I. M. Pei, the Crystal Bridge is a tropical conservatory in the area. The park has an amphitheater, known as the Water Stage. In 2007, following a renovation of the stage, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park relocated to the Myriad Gardens. The Myriad Gardens will undergo a massive renovation in conjunction with the recently built Devon Tower directly north of it.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is home to numerous natural habitats, WPA era architecture and landscaping, and hosts major touring concerts during the summer at its amphitheater. Oklahoma City also has two amusement parks, Frontier City theme park and White Water Bay water park. Frontier City is an 'Old West'-themed amusement park. The park also features a recreation of a western gunfight at the 'OK Corral' and many shops that line the "Western" town's main street. Frontier City also hosts a national concert circuit at its amphitheater during the summer. Oklahoma City also has a combination racetrack and casino open year-round, Remington Park, which hosts both Quarter horse (March – June) and Thoroughbred (August – December) seasons.

Walking trails line Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser in the northwest part of the city and downtown at the canal and the Oklahoma River. The majority of the east shore area is taken up by parks and trails, including a new leashless dog park and the postwar-era Stars and Stripes Park. Lake Stanley Draper is the city's largest and most remote lake.

Oklahoma City has a major park in each quadrant of the city, going back to the first parks masterplan. Will Rogers Park, Lincoln Park, Trosper Park, and Woodson Park were once connected by the Grand Boulevard loop, some sections of which no longer exist. Martin Park Nature Center is a natural habitat in far northwest Oklahoma City. Will Rogers Park is home to the Lycan Conservatory, the Rose Garden, and Butterfly Garden, all built in the WPA era. Oklahoma City is home to the American Banjo Museum, which houses a large collection of highly decorated banjos from the early 20th century and exhibits on the history of the banjo and its place in American history. Concerts and lectures are also held there.

In April 2005, the Oklahoma City Skate Park at Wiley Post Park was renamed the Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park to recognize Mat Hoffman, an Oklahoma City area resident and businessman that was instrumental in the design of the skate park and is a 10-time BMX World Vert champion. In March 2009, the Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park was named by the National Geographic Society Travel Guide as one of the "Ten Best."

Sister cities

Oklahoma City has seven sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:

Images for kids


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